Downfall

1Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun killing themselves. Atrocities committed against thousands of people at concentration camps. Klaus Mann visiting the Nazi dictator’s former Bavarian mountainside retreat. The unspeakable destruction and food scarcity in Berlin and other war-torn cities. The impertinence of Karl Dönitz, Hitler’s successor, as he desperately tries to find a political escape route. Marlene Dietrich encountering her sister in Bergen-Belsen. Bustling activity in the ruins as democratic political movements rise from the ashes.

Few historians have managed better to help understanding the political constellation in May 1945 than Volker Ullrich with his new book, “Acht Tage im Mai”. The author creates an almost intense atmosphere by including diary entries of political decision-makers and citizens.

The Battle of Stalingrad and D-Day might be the pivotal events of World War Two. But Ullrich’s documentation of what happened on the first few days of May 1945 – commencing with a prologue on Hitler’s suicide on the 30th of April – is a gripping page-turner.

Acht Tage im Mai. Die letzte Woche des Dritten Reiches
By Volker Ullrich
Published by C.H. Beck (www.beck.de)

Comfort & Compassion

What are the intentions of young people becoming Muslims? It certainly needs courage these days, regardless of their very personal environment. We live in times where certain vacuous prejudices have become inerasable elements of many citizens’ opinion.1

German journalist Susanne Kaiser’s book offers interesting psychological insights. Having chosen a personal over a scientific approach, the author portrays young individuals to reveal their compassion and spiritual aims. Why did Islam become their beacon of hope? How did parents and friends react to their groundbreaking decision?

“Die neuen Muslime” can become a vital contribution as the debate on faith, gender equality and fundamentalism continues to escalate.

Meanwhile, an expert on the Arab region and Islam has examined why there is so much scepticism, let alone hatred, towards the religion in the West.

In “Lieblingsfeind Islam”, author and Islamic scholar Petra Wild lists numerous examples of hostility towards Islam, from high-level representatives of the Catholic church in the 12th century to rightist political parties of the 20th and 21st century.

Die neuen Muslime. Warum junge Menschen zum Islam konvertieren
By Susanne Kaiser
Published by Promedia (www.verlag-promedia.at)

The Foreign Ministry Nazi Files

An investigating commission consisting of renowned historians has been given access to a large number of top secret files. Their task: compiling a report on foreign ministry officials and diplomats during the Third Reich.1

Who has secretly counteracted the Nazis’ agenda? Have those in charge of atrocities been brought to justice in post-war trials? And how where clerks and officials of all echelons integrated into Germany’s newly established institutions from 1945 on?

Norbert Frei, Peter Hayes, Eckart Conze and Moshe Zimmermann have earned wide acknowledgement for accomplishing their demanding task. However, there have also been less-than-flattering reactions – and the debate continues.

Das Amt und die Vergangenheit. Deutsche Diplomaten im Dritten Reich und in der Bundesrepublik
By Eckart Conze, Norbert Frei, Peter Hayes & Moshe Zimmermann
Published by Pantheon (www.pantheon-verlag.de)

Terrific Toni

Having been part of Germany’s triumphant 1954 World Cup squad, Toni Turek will hardly ever be forgotten by soccer enthusiasts. But it has not always been plain sailing for the legendary goalkeeper, as a new biography reveals.

“Toni Turek – ‘Fußballgott’” is a tale of a handful of baffling heights and numerous demoralising setbacks – from daunting experiences as a soldier that certainly have burned in his memory for the rest of his life to serious health issues starting at the age of just 54.1

Having grown up in hardship, Turek soon fell in love with football. World War Two kept the talented young chap from pursuing a career as a keeper. Turek had been on the frontlines in Russia, France and Italy before he was finally able to break through on the pitch.

Germany’s miracle triumph in Bern is excessively reviewed football folklore, but author Werner Raupp has managed to create a new perspective by focusing on Turek’s path into Sepp Herberger’s starting eleven. “Toni Turek – ‘Fußballgott’” discloses how Turek – described by teammates as an unassuming and totally down-to-earth lad – coolly ignored the naysayers hitting out at him over poor performances in the league and on international level.

After a professional career spent mostly in Dusseldorf, Turek took an office job but also coached youth and amateur teams. Having remained modest and gentle despite his remarkable achievements between the goalposts, fans still hold him in veneration.

Toni Turek – “Fußballgott”
By Werner Raupp
Published by Arete Verlag (www.arete-verlag.de)

The Riyadh Diaries

Changes are in motion in Saudi Arabia, but is a real turnaround within the bounds of possibility? A German journalist moved to Riyadh to find out.

“Zwölf Wochen in Riad” by Susanne Koelbl, who is a renowned magazine’s experienced foreign correspondent, is a magnificent collection of reports from one of the most controversial countries in the world.1

As Koelbl puts it in her subheading, Saudi Arabia still is a dictatorship. But didn’t some sort of reform process start a few years ago?

In her essays, Koelbl warns from a naive approach. Considering the regime’s harsh treatment of its enemies, any steps towards a more liberal society should be viewed with suspicion.

Koelbl has an undeniable sympathy for anybody struggling for a bit more freedom in Saudi Arabia. Reading her reports leads to the conclusion that the go-ahead to women behind the wheel can never make up for arrests and executions of those who dared to criticise the country’s leaders.

Having been to the region on assignment many times during the past 10 years, Koelbl settled down in Riyadh, the capital city, for three months in 2018.

In her book, the reporter for weekly news magazine Der Spiegel portrays a former Guantanamo inmate and one of the country’s most influential entrepreneurs. Trying to find out as much as possible about people, tradition and religion, she attends a traditional wedding and travels to rural parts of the country.

“Zwölf Wochen in Riad” is both a clear analysis of political developments and an insightful portrait of daily life.

Zwölf Wochen in Riad. Saudi-Arabien zwischen Diktatur und Aufbruch
By Susanne Koelbl
Published by DVA (www.dva.de)

The Summertime Bookshelf

smartLet’s take a look at some enticing literary options for the holiday season.

“Winterbienen” is another epic novel by Norbert Scheuer. Having released books like “Die Sprache der Vögel” and “Am Grund des Universums” to unanimous acclaim over the last few years, “Winterbienen” has been lauded as “a fascinating piece of literature” that “conveys all human emotion: hope, fear, joy”.

Winterbienen
By Norbert Scheuer
Published by C.H. Beck (www.chbeck.de)

Niko Alm is examining the strong ties between lawmaking institutions and the church. Investigating issues such as charity, state subsidies and ideology “Ohne Bekenntnis” confronts us with uncomfortable contradictions. At the end, the former Neos MP does not just list sources and links but also an appealing playlist featuring Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine and NOFX.

Ohne Bekenntnis. Wie mit Religion Politik gemacht wird
By Niko Alm
Published by Residenz Verlag (www.residenzverlag.at)

“Wir zerschneiden die Schwerkraft” is the first major release by Irmgard Fuchs. Born in Salzburg, Fuchs studied in Vienna and Berlin. Having been awarded with several scholarships, this 200-page collection underlines her reputation as one of Austria’s most promising young authors.

Wir zerschneiden die Schwerkraft
By Irmgard Fuchs
Published by Kremayr & Scheriau (www.kremayr-scheriau.at)

The Tatort Theorem

The Tatort series is guaranteeing an enthralling one and a half hours of primetime television for 50 years.1

Why does this programme have an ironclad way to reach up to 14 million viewers each Sunday? What are the most striking differences between this German-Austrian-Swiss success story and the globally popular CSI franchise when it comes to displaying violence and the personality of its main characters? Teeming with surprises, creators of the Tatort series have landed themselves in controversy many times.

In “Mord zum Sonntag. Tatortphilosophie”, former University of Vienna professor Alfred Pfabigan takes a closer look into the matter. His minutely detailed analyses help understanding why Tatort episodes hardly ever fail to make an impression.

This book is anything but an easily digestible quick guide. Pfabigan examines links between seismic changes in German politics and Tatort plots. He also determines the reputation of the series in Europe’s post-war movie and television culture. Those aiming at unusual and rather complex perspectives won’t disappointed.

Mord zum Sonntag. Tatortphilosophie
By Alfred Pfabigan
Published by Residenz Verlag (www.residenzverlag.at)

Terror & Turmoil

An expert on the Middle East is revealing a direct correlation between corruptible elites and the uprising in the region. In his book “Arabisches Beben. Die wahren Gründe der Krise im Nahen Osten”, Rainer Hermann surprisingly refers to the 17th century Treaty of Westphalia when it comes to examining potential restructure measures for Syrian, Libya and Iraq.1

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung journalist – who studied at universities in Freiburg, Basel, Rennes and Damascus – offers a bleak outlook. Hermann suggests that violence, terror and turmoil will continue to shatter the area for many decades to come.

“Arabisches Beben” reviews the first hint of revolt in Tunisia in 2011 but also underlines the devastating consequences of the controversial Sykes-Picot agreement from 1916.

Hermann – who was based in Istanbul and Abu Dhabi for many years – painstakingly documents how the US invasion of Iraq provided fertile ground for the Islamic State and other terrorist organisations.

Considering the deepening rift in the affected nations’ societies, uncertainties concerning the United States’ foreign policies and the European Union’s possible role as a negotiator, “Arabisches Beben” has discouraging news.

Arabisches Beben. Die wahren Gründe der Krise im Nahen Osten
By Rainer Hermann
Published by Klett-Cotta (www.klett-cotta.de)

Seaside Slaughter

1Warnemünde is an idyllic seaside resort. But news of a horrific series of killings are sending shockwaves through the town in the book by Jana Jürß. Seven decapitated female bodies are found within seven days at the Baltic Sea in “Ostseekiller”. The German author’s smart storytelling will let you shiver with fear.

“Ostseekiller” is just one of numerous spine-tingling crime stories released by Gmeiner Verlag. “Alles Geld der Welt” by Gerhard Loibelsberger and Wildis Streng’s “Die letzte Kurve” are among its most recent publications of that genre.

The publishing house previously put out “Schaurige Weihnacht überall”, an acclaimed Christmas time thriller by Friederike Schmöe who is also the author of “Schockstarre” from 2007 and “Wernievergibt” (2011) among numerous other crime novels.

Ostseekiller
By Jana Jürß
Published by Gmeiner (www.gmeiner-verlag.de)