Those Who Forget By: Geraldine Schwarz – Audiobook Online

Géraldine Schwarz’s “Those Who Forget” is a memoir that delves into the lives of her German and French grandparents during World War II. It explores their roles as Mitläufer, individuals who simply followed the current without being heroes or villains. The book uncovers how her paternal grandfather took advantage of Nazi policies to acquire a Jewish business in 1938, leading to demands for reparations from the surviving family members. Schwarz questions the guilt of her grandparents and reflects on the broader implications of collective complicity during that time. Through her family’s story, she examines Europe’s post-war reckoning with fascism and emphasizes the importance of remembering history as a defense against contemporary far-right nationalism.

During World War II, Géraldine Schwarz’s German grandparents were neither heroes nor villains; they are merely Mitlaüfer – people who go with the flow. When the war ended, they wanted to bury the past under the ruins of the Third Reich.

Decades later, rummaging through filing cabinets in the basement of their apartment building in Mannheim, Schwarz discovered that in 1938, her grandfather, Karl, had taken advantage of Nazi policies to buy a business from a Jewish family with low prices. She found letters from the sole survivor of this family (all the others had died in Auschwitz), asking for compensation. But Karl Schwarz refused to admit his responsibility. Géraldine begins to ask questions about the past: How did her grandparents commit crimes? What makes us complicit? On her mother’s side, she investigates the role of her French grandfather, a policeman in Vichy.

Intertwining the threads of three generations of her family story with Europe’s postwar reckoning, Schwarz explores how millions were seduced by ideology, overcome by the fog of Blind denial after the war, and, at least in Germany, eventual conversion. Collective guilt into democratic responsibility. She asked: How can nations learn from history? And she found that countries that avoid confronting their past are especially vulnerable to extremism. Painful and unforgettable, Those Who Forget “deserves to be widely read and discussed…this is Schwarz’s invaluable warning” (The Washington Post Book Review).

This is a powerful book filled with insights and analysis of the German (and to a lesser extent French) mentality as it related to Germany’s post-World War II effort to reconciliation with the terrible history of Nazism. I always wondered how the German people handled their involvement in Nazi Germany, Hitler’s success in leading the most murderous regime ever, and the Holocaust. This book does that job comprehensively and completely in a unique way. Ms. Schwarz’s book is most remarkable and a must read for any student of history and especially of World War II. Her description of the “memory work” of the German people’s efforts to grasp what happened under Hitler and hold themselves accountable is an inspiring story of political and social consciousness is put first to ensure “never again” is a reality. She also effectively contrasts German “memory work” with that of France, the Vichy government, and the French people.

The most powerful thing about the book is that the story is told through the author’s personal journey, with her own “memory work” and how it impacted her family and her emotions. about my family. Her German and French family roots give her a unique and rare perspective. Contrary to one review I read, I thought the writing style was very easy to understand and made reading the book much easier to handle than other “textbooks” on the subject. This writing style is also clear and concise. This is the best thing I have read. I cannot recommend it enough.

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