Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home

by Nora Krug

Hardcover, 2018




Scribner (2018), 288 pages


"A revelatory, visually stunning graphic memoir by award-winning artist Nora Krug, telling the story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family's wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history"--

User reviews

LibraryThing member Kathl33n
"I feel a sudden pain, shallow but sharp and all-consuming as a paper cut, because even inherited memory hurts."

It's been a very long time since I have felt a book so deeply and I find it difficult to adequately express that depth of emotion. Having never given much thought to the subsequent generations that are coming after the war I am blown away by how blind I have been to the lasting and wide-spread impact of such a world event. This book was presented with such beautiful innocence and honesty, and was so completely immersive that maybe just a list of all the thoughts and feelings I experienced while reading it will do to convey my gratitude at having been lucky enough to experience it.

Insightful, introspective, heart-wrenching, beautiful, moving, thoughtful, honest, intimate, painfully raw.

Many, many,many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member villemezbrown
A German American immigrant feels guilty about her home country's perpetration of the Holocaust and starts to investigate family stories to find the truth of how involved her ancestors were in the Nazi party and the German military during World War II.

First, I hate when I open a graphic novel and instead find giant blocks of handwritten text wrapping awkwardly around a single spot illustration or a photograph. Some pages Krug doesn't even bother to include the illustration or photograph. And the coloring is just a rainbow of ugliness.

Despite the above, I initially found myself interested in the giant blocks of text. I was intrigued with the idea of exploring the guilt that hangs over Germans even several generations removed from the Holocaust, just as I as an American have to struggle with my country's history of slavery and the destruction and oppression of indigenous people. I also had some points of contact with the material as my mother's family came from Germany, though long before World War II, and like the author I had a grandfather named Alois. (By the way, each Alois was a farmer who had bad luck with a tractor: Krug's Alois was killed in Germany a couple years after the war, mine lost a leg in Wisconsin.)

But as the book progressed I just became increasingly bored by its meandering nature even as revelations were made and Krug flailed about trying to find mitigating circumstances for her ancestors' sins. I could barely keep myself awake as I trudged through the final wad of hideously colored pages.
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LibraryThing member larryerick
What an odd book. The briefest explanation I can make for that assessment is that what is good about it is very good, but it, in my opinion, has a questionable goal to begin with and then seems to not recognize what it accomplished while seemingly missing its goal. Let me explain. The author is the daughter of two parents who were born in Germany immediately after World War II. The author and her parents have all been living in America, not Germany, for some time. Her parents' parents (her grandparents) were alive and well in Germany during the Nazi regime. One grandparent served in the German Army. In some cases, siblings of the parents were alive as children before the war ended, but one fought and died in battle in the German SS toward the later part of the war. The author is quite cognizant of the Holocaust and her connection to relatives that were alive and active in Nazi Germany. She is also quite guilt ridden about the connection. Why is she guilt ridden? Neither she nor her parents were alive during Hitler's time. Feeling family shame? Okay, maybe, depending on what her relatives did or did not do. But guilty? Does she not know the difference? In investigating her family past to decide just how guilty she should feel, she (1) uses a highly creative mechanism for doing that blends well with what she trying to convey to the readers, and (2) she is remarkably adept, as someone with apparently no background in investigative journalism, at finding information, validating what she finds, and asking proper and detailed questions about what it means. In short, she does a bang up job. But, yet, to not quite decide whether she should feel guilty or not. In the author's defense, she does explain growing up in the We're-not-at-all-proud-to-be-Germans national orientation offered to her as a German youth, still years after the atrocities had ended, so she admits to feeling -- what? -- groundless in her heritage? I couldn't help trying to compare her struggle with guilt about Nazi Germany with the utter lack of guilt the average American displays for "...the abduction and enslavement of African people, the displacement and genocide of Indigenous people, and the annexation of Mexican lands..." which sociologist, Robin DiAngelo, tries to get white Americans to acknowledge in her book, White Fragility. Moreover, as historian, Timothy Snyder, makes clear in his book, Bloodlands, elements of the former Soviet Union also did a damn fine job of committing horrendous and massive civilian atrocities during the same period as the Germans. Should all Russians be equally racked with guilt? I guess I will repeat my point. The author pulls out lots of important and meaningful questions for all of us to ask ourselves...but it seems she never gets a satisfying answer to her own question that prompted the book to begin with. I find that, at best, unusual.… (more)


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