It has recently become voguish for the relatives of those who lived through the Third Reich to produce books that explore how their family members behaved through those twelve dark years. Most recently, we have seen Martin Davidson’s The Perfect Nazi; Uwe Timm’s In My Brother’s Shadow; and Defying Hitler, Oliver Pretzel’s translation of the memoirs of his father, Sebastian Haffner. The latest addition to this emerging genre is Giles Milton’s Wolfram: The Boy Who Went to War, which tells the story of Milton’s father-in-law, the artist Wolfram Aïchele, who was eight years old when the Nazis came to power (not nine as the book’s jacket states). An artistic prodigy raised by bohemian parents near Pforzheim in Baden-Württemberg, he was torn – like so many young men – from his life in a small town to fight in a big war. Posted first to the Crimea, where he is nearly killed by diphtheria, he then goes to Normandy, where he is almost obliterated in an air raid, and Milton successfully captures Wolfram’s sensitivity as he experiences the crudeness of conflict.
Milton also investigates how the Aïchele family react to the encroachment of Nazism as Gleichschaltung takes hold in and around Pforzheim. Those who have read their Klemperer may be somewhat underwhelmed by the comparative inconveniences endured by the family, and Milton tells their story with a kind of