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In 1979 Sigfrid Gauch published "Vaterspuren (Traces of My Father)", the first of the so-called "father books" about the relationships of postwar Germans with their parents. It inspired a new genre in German literature. Ever since, such writings have greatly contributed to Germany's ongoing struggles to overcome its past. The autobiographical novel is Gauch's attempt to come to terms with his father, Herman Gauch - a physician who had joined the National Socialists in the 1920s, who wrote six books of "race research" as a member of the SS, and who to his dying day remained an unrepentant Nazi. The story alternates between the images of the elder Gauch's death and burial and the author's memories of childhood and adolescence. Unlike many of the father books, however, this volume is less a political attack than a personal journey. Gauch, though honest about his father's monstrous actions and ideas, does not shirk their shared emotional bond. The result is a poignant attempt by a son to relive his father's notorious life and in doing so free himself from the man's influence.
Northwestern University Press
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