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The German House

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Eva is asked to translate for Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt in 1963. Her parents run a restaurant, and she has a posh boyfriend. She's hoping Jürgen will propose. The trials affect her: she learns about the horrors of the camp as she translates the witnesses' experiences. Hess uses the real trial evidence in the book. Those accused follow the standard defence: they deny they were there, suggest dates were wrong, that they had no responsibility etc. Eva is gradually overwhelmed by what she translates, but finds that her family want to deny everything. She has strange childhood memories that she can't explain, and meets a young Canadian lawyer for the prosecution who takes the case personally.

Hard-hitting account of attempts to deny the Holocaust after the war.
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Wow - this book. 
I just couldn’t put it down. 

The German House follows Eva - whose parents own a restaurant appropriately named German House.
Eva struggles with hearing witness testimonies during the trial, and then struggles to stay close to her family after their dismissive attitude towards Auschwitz. Things take a turn for the worse when her fiancé starts to control what she can and can’t do, and she discovers a dark secret about her family’s past...

Set in 1960s West Germany during the Auschwitz Trials, The German House captures the generation gap between those who lived the war and those too young to remember that they lived through it. It could be that I find German history particularly fascinating, but I just could not put this book down. I loved the fact that this book didn’t try to sugar coat the attitudes of those who suffered towards the German people. 

I did, however, struggle with some of the side plots bu expected in the end for them to all come together and culminate in a big event. But I guess this adds to the appeal of the novel in a way - it keeps it real and makes you believe that Eva Bruhns really did experience all this. 

Nonetheless, I really would recommend this book.
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What if everything your family ever told you was a lie?

What if the place you grew up in harboured life changing secrets?

What if your fiancee is not the man you thought he was?

These are the questions that 24 year old Eva Bruhn is forced to ask herself in 1963, when she becomes a translator at the Frankfurt trials.

Eva was a child during the war, and has led a somewhat sheltered life.When she is asked by American investigator David Miller to translate the testimony of the Polish speaking Jews who were imprisoned at Auschwitz, it opens her eyes to a world she knew nothing about.

Of course, she has heard the stories about the War, but could not bring herself to believe that fellow residents of her own country would be responsible for such atrocities.

As part of the trial, the Court make a trip to Auschwitz where Eva is forced to confront her family's past, as she recognises much of the landscape. As she realises that her family have been lying to her for decades, she must make a decision about her future.

Should she continue with the trial, or should she protect her family from the true horrors of their past?

The German House is a difficult novel to describe, it is tough (in subject matter) but enjoyable. None of the characters are particularly likeable, but Eva definitely becomes a different person by the end of the novel, and you cannot help but feel for her.
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German-Polish interpreter, Eva Bruhns, is living an undisturbed life with her parents in Frankfurt during the 1960s. She’s about to be engaged to an heir to a wealthy family business and will finally be able to escape the confines of her parent’s house, her brother and sister and the family restaurant, The German House. Shortly after her boyfriend, Jürgen, finally musters up the courage to ask Eva’s hand in marriage, she is hired to work at the Frankfurt trials and her future takes a turn.

The rest of my review is available on my blog at
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I’m quite fascinated with life in and about WW2 and although this book is set in 1963 we read of some of the atrocities of Auschwitz in the war trials. It was incredibly moving to read this way and feel Eva’s emotions and confusion about her own parents wartime past. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the ARC in return for an honest and unbiased opinion.
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🔶 Review🔶⠀
I have become quite a fan of historical fiction based on WWII and this read was no exception. ⠀
I truly enjoyed this book as it looked at the after effects of the war from the German nation's perspective. This was fascinating and I read about a perspective that I have never thought of before. ⠀
All in all a great, poignant read that delved into family, relationships, survival, justice and the long and difficult road to understanding and forgiveness. ⠀
Synopsis as on the book: ⠀
What if everything your family ever told you was a lie?⠀
Frankfurt, 1963 At the war’s end, Frankfurt was a smoldering ruin, severely damaged by the Allied bombings. But that was two decades ago. Now it is 1963, and the city’s streets, once cratered are smooth and paved. Shiny new stores replace scorched rubble. ⠀
For twenty-four-year-old Eva Bruhn, World War II is a foggy childhood memory. Eager for her wealthy suitor, Jürgen Schoorman, to propose, Eva dreams of starting a new life away from her parents and sister. But Eva’s plans are turned upside down when an American investigator, David Miller, hires her as a translator for a war crimes trial. As she becomes more and more involved in the Frankfurt Trials, Eva begins to question her family’s silence on the war and her future. ⠀
Why do her parents refuse to talk about what happened? What are they hiding? Does she really love Jürgen and will she be happy as a housewife? Though it means going against the wishes of her family and her lover, Eva, propelled by her own conscience, joins a team of fiery prosecutors determined to bring the Nazis to justice—a decision that will help change her country forever.⠀
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I am lucky in that I get to read some books that I normally wouldn’t be able to. ARCs from NetGalley tend to do that and I am so glad that I got to know about it. The German House is about Frankfurt trials and I admit that I didn’t know much about this but I am so glad that I chose to request this one. I know a bit about the matter and the book also helped me gain knowledge so yay for that.

It’s translated fiction and it was a bit dry in the beginning and my pace was slow in the beginning because of that. However as the plot started to reveal itself, I started speeding up the reading. It also made me pause my reading and google some things because I simply wasn’t aware of those things and needed help.

So let’s get into the story. Eva Bruhns is twenty four years old, she’s hoping her boyfriend (Jürgen Schoormann) will propose to her soon, talk to her family about their wedding soon. She’s a translator and someone called David Miller suddenly wants her to translate some interviews, she does arrive to the interview and realises that it’s not her normal work. It’s about the war crimes trials and what she learns during this time horrifies her.

This is the gist of the book but what made it really notable to me was the way it’s written. While there was a patch in the beginning that was jarring when it just simply switched perspectives and I was super confused but apart from that, the book is so solid. Eva is a great main character and I think, from what I have read on the internet, her overall feelings on the trials are similar to what many people thought during that time who were also living Frankfurt.

There are other perspectives that also work wonderfully in the book, unlike in the beginning, these happen later in the book and were written in a better way. The other thing I loved about this one is the way the author wove a way to go into detail about the atrocities of war and concentration camps and just the general inhuman acts that happened in Auschwitz.

As someone who is always ready to learn more about history of the world, this one was a great educational trip. Seriously. So much googling. But in the best way possible. I would definitely recommend it to those who like to read about history or more importantly, WWII then this is a great pick.
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The German House starts as the story of Eva, a young woman in West Germany 20 years after the war and how she is drawn in to trials of Nazi Camp Guards at Auschwitz as a Polish translator. What she hears awakens childhood memories that she had long forgotten and changes her.
The attitude of her family and other people around her to the trials is interesting and the story develops to show how as a nation Germany had to come to terms with what had happened as well.
I was given a copy of The German House by NetGalley and the publishers in return for an unbiased review.
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The German House is set in Frankfurt in 1963 at the time of the Auschwitz trials. Eva Bruhns is a 24 year old translator, and is asked to translate the testimony of the Polish speaking Jews who were imprisoned at Auschwitz. Eva was a small child during the war, and remembers little of it. She seems to be mostly concerned with her romance and possible engagement to Jürgen Schoorman, a wealthy businessman. However, when David Miller, a Canadian lawyer who is working for the prosecution at the trials, hires Eva as a translator, her world view and her opinion of her parents and the Germans involved in the war, changes. Her parents don’t want to talk about their involvement in the war, and Jürgen doesn’t think that she should be involved in something so distasteful. But this isn’t just a coming of age story. Granted, Eva does grow in this novel. She learns about the collective guilt of the German nation with regards to the Holocaust, and looks at how the children of the war generation reacted to something that was in effect hidden from them. They called it Vergangenheitsbewältigung - the struggle to come to term with and overcome the past. Young Germans wanted to analyse, digest and learn to live with the past, and the Holocaust in particular. Eva can’t understand why her parents will not own up to their share of the guilt.

I really enjoyed this novel. It was hard-going at times, and it did read like a translated novel. It did however, catch the spirit of the time. Eva’s longing to break out of the societal restrictions of the time (for example when she refers to how much she likes a new Beatles song that Jürgen can’t understand, he doesn’t like pop music) and Jürgen’s wish that she stops work as soon as she gets engaged (as a modern woman, I was positively fuming at this point!!).

I was fascinated by the trip the Court makes to Auschwitz - somewhere I’ve never been, and after a trip to Oranienburg (a camp for political prisoners outside Berlin), I feel that I would struggle to go. This was one of the most emotional parts of the book.

The side story involving Eva’s older sister is also fascinating, and I feel portrays the effect of seeing so much violence and hatred as a young child (no spoilers here!).

All in all, after I got used to the writing style, I really enjoyed this. It was an interesting insight into the post-war years, and West Germany’s reaction to the damage and destruction that the Nazis had caused during the Holocaust.

This is well worth a read.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy of this book to read and honestly review.
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I’ve seen this book floating around Bookstagram a lot lately and it really intrigued me so I decided to give it a go. It is translated from the German and I usually really enjoy reading works of translation as I feel it brings something different to my reading life. The German House is a kind of coming of age story of a young woman named Eva living in 1960’s Germany who becomes involved in a war trial. The time period is particularly interesting. It is not the immediate aftermath of World War Two, however, it is not so far into the future that the ramifications are not still being felt.

It took me quite a while to properly get into The German House, truth be told, in part due to the narrative jumping around a lot. The point of view changes throughout with no chapter break or indication that the person we are following has changed. This isn’t something I’ve really come across in a book before and it did get a little confusing from time to time. Despite this confusion there was also a lot I liked about this book. It is a compelling story and following the trials is both heartbreaking and fascinating. Eva has a great deal of naivety concerning the war and her lack of knowledge leaves the reader kind of in the dark as well which creates a real sense of growing tension throughout. As Eva learns more about both her country’s history and her own personal history the extremely complex issue of complicity is brought to the foreground. The question of responsibility and where it should lie is intertwined with Eva’s realisation that she is not as far removed from the war as she at first seems to believe.

My feelings about this book are mixed. I found the process of the trials and Eva’s relationship with both her family and with the people involved in the trials really engaging and interesting. However Eva’s romance with her fiancee, Jurgen, left me cold and the narrative switching point of view rather frequently did slightly take me out of the story. The German House has an unusual perspective on a subject that has been the focus of millions of books and is therefore, in my opinion, very worth reading despite some problems.
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For Eva Bruhns the war is a distant memory.  In modern Frankfurt she works as a Polish interpreter and translator, lives with her family in their restaurant and hopes that her rich boyfriend will propose.  However when Eva is asked to work on the trial of Nazi guards from Auschwitz she starts to question everything.  Why are her parents so silent about the war?
There is a lot to like about this book.  However I found some of the plot devices a little confusing - why did David disappear? why is Jurgen's family so dysfunctional? - it almost feels like the author is trying to cram too much into the tale.  In terms of the handling of the aftermath of the war the writer is very reverent and gentle and this contrasts with the brash modernity of 1960s Germany.
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The German House is an engaging read, tackling the harrowing subject of the Holocaust from a perspective I haven't seen in fiction before. Using the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials of 1963 as a springboard into the past offers both a historical account and a poignant exploration of guilt and culpability, memory and privilege.

The characters are pretty well-developed, often empathetic in their flaws, if not always likeable. I found a few of the characters' self-destructive tendencies a little melodramatic, but as the narrative tightens you realise how the shadow of the war has touched them all - whether they are conscious of it or not.

I found the prose a bit stilted, which sometimes dampened the emotional impact - although it's hard to tell if this is an issue with the translation or the original. I was also thrown by the narrative’s occasional rapid jumps between scenes and perspectives, which seemed a clunky way to draw connections.

The German House is a unique piece of historical fiction, and makes for a thought-provoking read.
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I have a new-found appreciation of world war II era books but what attracted me to reading this story, in particular, was that it is based after the war is over when most are based on the lead up to it or during. It also is unique in that it merges war crimes with a family drama and caught my interest right from the beginning. Almost two decades after the Nuremberg trials the Frankfurt trials are in full swing exploring the Nazi Holocaust and holding to account former SS concentration camp guards. Young Eva Bruhn (hmm, yes, the name is very familiar) takes the role of translator at the trials (translating Polish survivors witness testimonies) and is shocked and appalled at what she hears. The trials hope to bring a sense of justice and prosecute those German's who committed the horrific war crimes in Auschwitz. However, this opens a can of worms and Eva is left contemplating why her family will not talk about the war and their roles in it. But Eva is adamant about discovering the truth and will not stop until she knows.

This is a story all about the issues of complicity and how this can impact future generations. It's heart-wrenching to hear the stories of Auschwitz and a real eye-opener. Annette Hess manages to create a profoundly moving tale that envelops and immerses you beautifully and 1960s Frankfurt is depicted as having the fog of war not yet lifted hanging over the city. It's atmospheric, well written and poignant. It asks the question of whether those who knew about the Nazi atrocities and turned a blind eye to them are just as guilty as those doing the exterminating. The delicate subject matter is treated with the utmost respect and compassion. It's clear the author has carried out extensive research in to this sad and often harrowing topic which makes the narrative believable. The translation, at times, felt rather clunky and clumsy but, for the most part, I enjoyed reading a different, thought-provoking perspective of events. Many thanks to HarperVia for an ARC.
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This powerful story began to appear rather predictable but then threw in a few surprises and red herrings.  The narrative is compelling a f has a real "page_turner" quality.  The last few chapters are really compelling and finish off an interesting and thought provoking story.  Highly recommended.
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I'm not sure exactly what I expected from this novel, but the reality was so much better than I could ever have dreamt!

Eva Bruhn lives in West Germany with her parents, elder sister and younger brother. She has an admirer and is just waiting for him to pop the question. She dreams of a new life with Jurgen, who comes from a wealthier family than her own. Then, out of the blue, her services as a translator are required for a war crimes trial, and that turns everything Eva has ever known or hoped for on it's head . . .

What a read! Gripping, factual and emotional this pulled me in from the very first. It's a book on so many different levels and had me mesmerised from first to last. This author spins a fine tale; the research must have been extensive as the details are finely tuned. This is, in my experience, a unique story and provides much food for thought. I paused in my reading several times just to ponder what I had read and learned. Some very clever and skilful writing entwines stories from two different time levels and the result is a fantastic novel. A stunning read, and one which I'm very pleased to have had the chance to review. If you enjoy a beautifully created tale and an attention grabbing read, then The German House is one for you. A glowing five stars - and well worth each single one!

My thanks to publishers 4th Estate for my copy via NetGalley. This is my honest, original and unbiased review.
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A different view of the Holocaust from the perspective of a young German woman translating for the victims at a trial for those who ran Auschwitz. As the story unfolds she has to come to terms with her own families involvement and how the general German population has to deal with their collective guilt.
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Enjoyed this book about the 1963 war crimes trial and the major character is Eva a naive girl who is involved in the trial did however feel the middle of the book fell away and became static but overall the book was an enjoyable read.
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The German House is a literary triumph, dealing with questions of shame, complicity and responsibility. Eva Bruhns works as a translator and is recruited to work at a trial of former SS officers being held to account for atrocities committed at Auschwitz. Her parents Ludwig and Edith run a restaurant - the German House and when they discover she is to be part of the trial process, they implore her not to accept the position. Her fiance is also deeply concerned and fears she will be emotionally scarred. However Eva is a strong female character and despite such resistance, proclaims, "I decide for myself, where, when and how I'm going to work. I'm in charge of myself, and myself alone!"

As the trial commences, shadowy memories return to Eva from her childhood and she becomes more and more convinced that she is somehow connected to the camp. Unable to shake this disturbing feeling, she searches the files in the prosecutor's office, and to her horror, discovers her father's name among the SS officers who served at the camp. When she confronts him, he claims that he had no choice and that he had no knowledge of what was happening to the prisoners until after the war. Eva feels an 'ineffable shame' and tells her father, "You may not have murdered anyone, but you allowed it. I don't know which is worse!"

As more and more information is uncovered at the trial of the horrors that occurred she is haunted by questions of responsibility and guilt. As the verdict is made that 'what was lawful then, cannot be considered unlawful today', and that only those who acted contrary to orders or of their own accord, will be sentenced for murder, the question remains - is silence as heinous as action? The atrocities committed could only continue while everyone remained complicit. Is fear a reasonable defence? 

Eva was an inspirational character and the writing was sublime. Never an easy read, it was however, challenging and compelling and a book that will remain with me always.
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Eva Bruhns is a young German woman working as a translator. Her life changes when she take up a post as translator for the Auschwitz Trials in Frankfurt. At the same time she is in a burgeoning relationship with Jurgen, a wealthy man who wants her to bend to his will in what she should and should not do.

There is a third storyline involving her sister Annegret which whilst very interesting has little relevance to the main story line unless it is commenting on character and how it develops. It is this that made the book 4 rather than 5 stars as I felt it didn't really have a place in the novel. I felt the Author would have been bette placed developing Eva's moral questions

It is hard to write a review for this book without giving away the factors that make it surprising, complex and filled with raw emotion. I felt it had a lot to make the reader think and I will remember it for a long time
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Set around the Auschwitz trials of 1963 in Frankfurt, our main character is Eva, a young translator.   Eva lives above The German House – a restaurant run by her parents, Ludwig and Edith Bruhns, her sister, Annegret and young brother, Stefan.    Eva is hoping to marry Jurgen Schoormann, whose wealthy father runs a famous mail order catalogue.  

Eva finds herself involved in a war crimes trial, which will have implications for her life, her family and the way she sees both herself and her country.   Jurgen is not thrilled at the idea of his intended wanting to work and Eva has doubts about her relationship.   Before he met her, Jurgen wanted to be a priest and, at times, he is a little severe and grumpy – for a start, he doesn’t like the Beatles, so his judgement is obviously severely impaired!   

At times, this felt a little like a Young Adult novel.   It seems almost improbable that Eva was so unaware of what happened in her country, although the author unravels her growing understanding of the enormity of the crimes facing her.   There is an interesting side story about her overweight sister, who has affairs which lead her nowhere and is much respected for her commitment to the babies she cares for.   However, as with Eva’s storyline, there is much going on beneath the surface of what appears to be the accepted version of her life.

At the end of the day, I can only rate books on how much I enjoy reading it and, despite the fact that this novel had shortcomings, overall, I really found it interesting and was engaged with both the plot and the characters.   An interesting look at a fascinating historical event; sometimes a little clumsily done, but very readable.   I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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