My Father’s Country was a big success in Germany – on Der Spiegel’s bestseller list, well-reviewed from Die Zeit down. Random House envisages a similar success here, and it was the BBC’s Book of the Week in early March. I think they’ve both miscalculated.
Wibke Bruhns’s father was Hans Georg Klamroth, one of the many Germans executed for their connection to the July plot against Hitler (over 600, according to Bruhns; close to 5,000, according to a British estimate at the time). Like most of these, he was a peripheral figure, condemned not for active participation but for knowing about the plot and not betraying it. Nonetheless he was brutally hanged; his family lost everything they owned. This is the drama that moved Wibke Bruhns to try to understand what happened to her father, and why. In other words, My Father’s Country is a book about Nazism and the Third Reich. That is indeed a popular genre in Britain. Random House and the BBC ought to be on safe ground.
They’re not, for several reasons. The first and most important is that My Father’s Country is not, in fact, about Nazism and the Third Reich, at least in the way that its presentation (blurb, prologue) leads us to expect. Well over half the book is about the glory days of