Hitler's Children by Gerald Posner - review by Sean Gabb

Sean Gabb

Honour Thy Father

Hitler's Children


William Heinemann 240pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Hitler’s Children began as a series of interviews conducted with the children of eight prominent National Socialists, plus two others. 'I knew that several books had studied the children of concentration camp survivors,' Posner explains, 'but . . . I was not aware of any attempt to study the children of the perpetrators.' And so he set about tracking some of them down and putting them through a long and minute examination. In preparing, he consulted all the available sources - the standard published works, the Nuremberg transcripts, the various American and German archives, and so forth. This enabled him to check or to amplify the answers given by his interviewees. But all reduces to the basic question: How does it feel to be the child of a mass-murderer?

Posner is enormously well-informed: and his amplifications amount together to a brief history of Hitler's Germany. He is also an engaging writer, and I am sure the reader will be entertained as well as informed. But, it must be admitted, the answers to this question have little value as history. The children are of no importance in themselves. They never chose their parents, and often never knew them. They had no part in the crimes. How they regard the facts of their ancestry adds nothing to our understanding of the Third Reich.

What the answers do illuminate is a problem that recurs, if with different circumstances, in every generation. I doubt if anyone has devised a code of practical morals that is both consistent and entirely acceptable to human nature. We are told 'Honour thy father and thy mother' and 'Thou shalt

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