I have a confession to make: I kind of like Holocaust movies. I wouldn’t go so far as to have any kind of Holocaust movie festival or marathon, but I love how starkly we can define the good and bad in a Holocaust film, and I admire the narratives where that strict definition is examined and complicated. I love The Sound of Music, and the Pianist. I was fascinated by the Rape of Europa, and of course I love the Diary of Anne Frank. That said, you could not pay me enough to spend a year reading about the Holocaust. A movie is one thing. A 1000+ page tome is quite another.
And that, apparently, is what separates me from Erica Barnett, who has spent the last year reading more than 8,000 pages of Holocaust history. Check out her article in The Stranger about her experiences. Here’s a teaser:
That’s about 8,000 pages filled with words about genocide, atrocity, military history, man’s inhumanity to manâ€”not to mention a dozen separate, and frequently conflicting, accounts of the man who most shaped the 20th century. Here are a few of the things I learned.
(1)Â Â Â Never read about Hitler on the bus. Unless, that is, you’re looking for conversations with beady-eyed homeless guys who stare at you sideways and mutter, “He was right about a lot of things, you know.” Followed by: “So… where are you getting off?”
(5) There is something highly rewardingâ€”even gratifyingâ€”about watching the bad guys get theirs. My favorite stories about the Nazi era take place in April 1945, when Berlin was surrounded in every direction and Nazis who hadn’t left Berlin already realized they never would (Magda Goebbels forcing her children to take poison, Hitler’s last look at the city he’d destroyed, loyal Nazis hastily gathering gasoline to burn Hitler’s body along with that of Eva Braun). For the most thorough description published to date of the last moments of the Nazi regime, I recommend Antony Beevor’s The Fall of Berlin 1945 (2002), a grisly, bloody, absolutely devastating book that includes one of the most detailed accounts yet of those final, desperate days.