Tag Archives: nazi

Book Review: The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg

Title: The Emperor of Lies
Author: Steve Sem-Sandberg
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
ISBN: 9780887842597
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 608
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

When I first started reading, “The Emperor of Lies” I was a bit daunted by the size of the book – 700 pages and that too of Holocaust literature, I was almost prepared to be depressed and miserable. However, I soon realized that there are times in life when may be one has to read a certain book for the sheer power of its writing and not always because of the content. There have been a lot of books written about the Holocaust, so much so that it has become a genre in its own and to add to this is, “The Emperor of Lies”, by Steve Sem-Sandberg, translated competently by Sarah Death.

The Emperor of Lies is a fictionalized account (but of course) of events from the actual archives of Poland’s Ghetto from September 1942 to January 1945. This ghetto was the second largest in Poland set up by the Nazis as a holding center to transport Jews to the concentration camps.

The “Emperor of Lies” was Mordechai Chaim Murkowski, a 63 year old Polish Jew, who was appointed by the Nazis to take charge of the ghetto and its functioning. In the book, he is known as the Chairman. Murkowski before the Nazi regime was a prosperous businessman. Although he reported directly to the Nazis, he had an authoritarian rule over the Jews at the ghetto. His primary function was to ensure that the ghetto was provided with electricity, work, food, heat, housing, and health and welfare.

There are two coins to every story. While Murkowski was responsible for keeping half the Jew population in the ghetto alive by making them manufactures a variety of goods for the German Army. This ensured that this ghetto was the last to be liquidated. While Murkowski believed in, “Work sets you free”, he also is portrayed to be ignorant, vulgar, power-hungry, who was attracted to women and children. On one hand he is made to seem to be a Nazi collaborator and on the other, shown to be a saviour of the Jews.

The book is hard hitting. Sem-Sandberg takes the reader to the very heart of evil and makes you see things as they were in those times. The Emperor of Lies also gives voice to quarter of a million Jews of Lodz who vanished without a trace. He paints an honest picture of corruption at the Jewish Ghetto Administration Council. The novel is unique – in the sense that it provides a complete picture of Murkowski and his actions. It does take sides and does not want the reader to. The Emperor of Lies does not paint a pretty picture. The reader will cringe in most places and might be tempted to let go of the book. However this is a different take on the Holocaust. A book that you should read if you want to know more about those times.

Book Review: The End: Hitler’s Germany: 1944-1945 by Ian Kershaw

Title: The End: Hitler’s Germany: 1944-1945
Author: Ian Kershaw
Publisher: Allen Lane, Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0-713-99716-3
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I had never read a single book by Ian Kershaw before “The End”. To be honest, none of his works ever fascinated me and even if they did sometimes, I could not get myself to read them because of my basic preconception: They would be highly pedantic, but I was proved wrong when I picked up The End and could not let go till I had finished reading it.

The End: Hitler’s Germany: 1944-1945 is a clear indication by the title as to what kind of a book this will be. It is about the End days of Hitler’s Germany and how his soldiers and army were still not willing to give up till the very end, despite being fully aware of how this was going to end for them.

A lot has been written on this topic. Almost every World War II historian has made it a point to document and publish the Nazi Regime, and yet something about this book is unique. The very thought and idea of how Hitler’s imagery and perception was so engrained in his regime that even though he was broken man, they fought on regardless, almost unwilling to believe that their demi-god had met his fate – that of ruin.

All this while, as his empire was falling, Hitler tried keeping things normal. From postal service to magazine publication to the day-to-day living – nothing changed. A mask had to be kept on. Ian Kershaw attempts to explore the idea of German people to go down with the regime. He touches upon the structure and mentality of the “charismatic rule” which I personally found very intriguing throughout the book.

Ian Kershaw is an authority on the Third Reich with all that he has written on the topic. Like I said I haven’t read a book by him earlier, however The End has been written with great depth and intensity. Sir Ian Kershaw also focuses on The End as seen through the eyes of commoners – the Germans who instilled all faith in Adolf.

The End closes with the surrender and defeat of Germany. Hitler as well know committed suicide and no one even knew for days on. Civilians suffered and so did soldiers. Everything came to a standstill and despite this earlier Germany continued to fight.

I will not forget this book for a long time because of the kind of impact it had on me. Hitler’s regime ended and the consequences prior and post that were paid by all – especially innocent people. The book did not seem dense or a heavy read to me all. In fact at one point I wished it would not end so soon. A must read for all History lovers.

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