Gitta Sereny’s work was her life. She became one of the world’s most respected biographers, journalists and historians – a rare combination, as it means knowing how to write for instant impact but also for longevity. The German Trauma gathers the best of her writing over a period of sixty years. It is a searing testament to the value of accurate memory and enduring remembrance. It’s also an extraordinary portrait of a country, a people, a culture, and a sense of emerging realisation.
Sereny’s writing elevates the challenge of coming to terms with shame and a Nazi past, collectively and in specific instances, and she explores the ways in which the burden of guilt altered a national identity. She writes about the people we recognise – Stangl and Speer, for example – and the questions raised by their legacy. The conviction of her writing is startling. She constantly reminds us why it is important to remember these things – war guilt, holocaust denial and the temptations of obedience.