By Clark Isaacs, Clark’s Eye on Books
H. Peter Nennhaus penned his memoir of Germany in pre-WWII and during the war in an attempt to show how the Berliner experienced life in his book entitled “The Shipwreck of a Nation.” Growing up at this time, he witnessed and experienced many tribulations, but it was from the viewpoint of a victim of propaganda.
Accounts of his childhood indicate that he was the son of a Nazi party member, was among those who had been duped by Adolf Hitler’s regime, and all these descriptions preceded the invasion of European countries by the German Army which resulted in World War II.
Nennhaus remembers fondly his childhood and trips to a farm belonging to a close relative. He writes of the joy he had as a youth without care or understanding of the events going on around him. He remembers that in 1938 there was an episode called Kristallnacht, “the night of broken glass,” where the Nazis smashed windows of stores owned by Jews, but he was ignorant of its meaning at that time. He only recalls the store owners in his neighborhood were out cleaning up glass and trying to once again resume their lives. His father never explained to him what was meant by the propaganda that this was supposed to be a spontaneous outburst; whereas, historically, it was Hitler’s Brown Shirts who commenced a campaign which was to be the “final solution.”
The attempt to play ignorant is futilely established by his references to facts which are supposedly from authoritative sources. Many times he tells of the stories he overheard or those which were promoted by the Nazi German government as truth with regard to historical events. Modern history books refute many of his perceptions. For example, he accepted as fact, Poland was going to invade Germany and it was a pre-emptive strike by the German Army to prevent this from happening. Even the invasion of Russia by Germany was again described as a means of stopping Stalin’s Russian troops from attacking Germany.
The main reason this book is being reviewed is to point out what had transpired in Nazi Germany as told by the author is not an account of what really happened. What really happened is that religious people of all faiths were exterminated, the Holocaust was a reality, and those who opposed the government were put to death. Nennhaus states that the ordinary Berliner was not aware of these atrocities during the war. It was only after the war and being forced to view films by the allies did he first learn what happened to those who were taken from their midst.
As a youth, Nennhaus was indoctrinated as a member of “Hitler Youth” and the training which he received is clearly revealed in his memory of what had happened. History is distorted to reflect a stilted viewpoint which is what he had believed to be true.
He states, without remorse, that he wanted to join the Army in order to receive the Iron Cross medal and the badge of honor for the destruction of a tank, but he was too young and the war was ending. The way that he describes this phase, the reader is given the impression he really felt cheated that he could not attain these indicia of his allegiance.
He describes his brothers; one a hero who died in the war and the other being sent to a prison camp in Russia after the war. He had extreme animosity toward Russia throughout the book because of them.
This book carries a caveat by the publisher that the views expressed by the author are not those of the publisher.
This book is not recommended as a good read. In fact, it is one that you should cast aside and let it become the ‘Shipwreck’ of a lost generation.
The Shipwreck of a Nation
Author: H. Peter Nennhaus
ISBN: 1432734032, Pages: 307, $26.95 Publication Date: February 27, 2009, Softcover, Biography, Published by: Outskirts Press
Clark Isaacs is an accomplished book critic who is published in local newspapers and national book review lists. Contact Clark through his website at clarkisaacs.ning.com or through NewsBlaze.