The Reluctant Nazi – Searching for My Grandfather

The Reluctant Nazi
320 Pages
ISBN 978 0 7524 6447 3

More than 60 years after the end of World War II, I found two diaries in which my grandfather recorded his daily eye witness reports of central Berlin in 1945 when he served as doctor near the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. In hastily set up medical cellars without water, medications, and even light, he tried his best to help the wounded and dying. The naked dead were stacked outside.

The diaries, however, revealed not only the horrors of Berlin, but that my beloved grandfather had been a member of the Nazi Party. This had never been mentioned in my family. At first I was glad to rescue the diaries from their 60-year hiding place, but the second dicovery forced me to deal with a guilt I had not confronted throughout my life.

In 62 short chapters "The Reluctant Nazi" moves between my grandfather's agonizing account of what it was like as Hitler's Reich collapsed and the Soviets occupied the inner city, juxtaposed with my memories of living with him after the war when he wrote poems for me to recite, taught me Latin, and showed me how to build a kite. Until his death he was both father and grandfather to me since my father, a fighter pilot, had been shot down in 1943. And throughout I discuss the German silence of the immediate post-war years and ponder questions of German guilt and political responsibility altogether.

Gabrielle Robinson

About Gabrielle Robinson (South Bend, Indiana Author)

Gabrielle Robinson

Gabrielle Robinson was born in Berlin in 1942. After living in cities such as Vienna, London and New York, she has happily settled in South Bend, Indiana, with her husband Mike and their cat Max. She has been inducted into the South Bend Community Hall of Fame and been awarded a Sagamore of the Wabash, Indiana's highest honor. Gabrielle received her PhD in Modern Drama from the University of London and after many years of university teaching is now Professor Emerita of English.

After writing academic books and articles, Gabrielle has turned to popular culture and local history. She has written about the coffee houses and open air wine bars of Vienna. "German Settlers of South Bend" deals with German immigration in the 1850's which helped build the city. "Better Homes of South Bend: An American Story of Courage" describes how the new arrivals from the South in the 1940's won out over the discrimination they encountered, "Jim Crow in the North," to build homes in a white district and create a vibrant neighborhood.

Gabrielle's most challenging book is the memoir/biography "The Reluctant Nazi." Through diaries she discovered Gabrielle found out that her beloved grandfather had been a member of the Nazi Party. His diaries give a day by day account of the bombing, the fall of Berlin, and the Russian occupation. That story is juxtaposed with Gabrielle trying to come to terms with German guilt, and all our political responsibility.