When We Cease to Understand the World: Goring, Magical Realism and the Nuremberg Trials

Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich (which, by the way, self highly recommends) stuck to factual accounts. Labatut’s strategy in When We Cease to Understand the World is completely different, using stream-of-consciousness to re-visit the Nuremberg Trials. The result is unbelievably lush and striking.

After the suicide of Hermann Goring:

The Allies attempted to wipe away all traces of his existence. They removed the shards of glass from his lips and sent his clothing, personal effects and naked body to the municipal crematorium at the Ostfriedhof cemetery in Munich, where one of the gigantic ovens was fired up to incinerate Goring, mingling his ashes with those of thousands of political prisoners and opponents of the Nazi regime decapitated at Stadelheim prison, the handicapped children and psychiatric patients murdered by the Aktion T4 euthanasia programme, and countless victims of the concentration camp system. His remains were scattered late at night in the waters of the Watzenbach, a small brook chosen from a map at random. But these efforts were in vain: to this day, collectors from all over the world continue to exchange keepsakes and belongings of the last great leader of the Nazis, commander of the Luftwaffe and Hitler’s natural successor. In June 2016, an Argentine man paid more than three thousand euros for a pair of the Reichschmall’s silk underpants. Months later, that same man spent twenty-six thousand euros on the copper and zinc cylinder that had once concealed the glass vial Goring ground between his teeth on October 15, 1946.

When We Cease to Understand the World, p. 12

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: