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What did you love best about On Hitler's Mountain?
I have read dozens of books on German history before, during, and after Adolf Hitler. I've been to Berchtesgaden, stayed in the Zum Türken Hotel that was confiscated from a local family for housing SS officers, and have visited many sites around the Obersalzburg like the Berghof, Kehlsteinhaus (Eagles Nest), and Königsee trying to get a sense of the nature of life under Nazism and how that world twisted, chipped away at, and helped form the current world with all of it's wonders...and bumps, boils, and wounds. This book was a revelation. By avoiding the pontifications of any particular political, moral, or national perspective, Ingrid simply presents the personal thoughts and experiences of her world as she experienced it. It seems that every book, every site visit, and even a discussion with Frau Scharfenberg, now-deceased owner of Zum Türken, were reactions to the Nazi world in a way I struggle to explain - it's as though these other perspectives are puzzle pieces making up the final image of the Third Reich whereas this book presents Irmgard's life as the big picture with just a few of the puzzle pieces being the Third Reich...well, actually it wasn't the Reich itself but rather the individual PEOPLE and families of the Third Reich like the Speers.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Irmgard herself is a fascinating character. She is open and honest about the nature of others' and her own responses, both positive and negative - to Hitler and the Nazi regime. It was so refreshing to see an honest first-hand presentation of the personal hardships she and her family experienced. While obviously very much anit-Nazi in her underlying sentiments, she presented the story as personal, without trying to unnecessarily deal with anti-Nazi apologetics or justifications - that's not what the book or Irmgard is about. While not presented so explicitly, I came away with a better understanding of the simple fact that German people all along the continuum of responsibility, from completely innocent to abhorrently complicit, suffered a likewise continuous spectrum of outcomes that ranged from benevolent indifference of the US soldiers to violent vengeful hate of the Soviets. There was great suffering and great advantage experienced by both the innocent and the guilty - fortune is fickle. What ultimate benefit to the world is there that the stories of some be left untold? In these increasingly nationalistic days in the West, I think it is wise to listen to a holistic narrative of past experiences of nationalism - not all "bad" will be made to suffer and not all that are made to suffer are "bad".
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I found Irmgard's delivery to be what some may call typical German dispassionate resolve. There were no outbursts of anger, obvious displays of lachrymosity, or hilarious slapstick events but I felt her deep sense of loss, the anger, the confusion, and the fear.
Any additional comments?
This book makes me hopeful that a more complete history of WWII is still possible...a history that presents the viewpoints of the defeated as something other than completely evil or those of the victors as being completely righteous. On one end of the continuous spectrum, many Germans suffered greatly from 12 years of Nazism followed by decades of oppression under the Communist Soviet victors - neither of which they asked for and neither of which they deserved. On the other end of the spectrum some elite Germans benefited greatly from their 12 years as Nazis or Nazi collaborators and went on to lead wealthy and respected lives in Democratic West Germany, the United States, or South America - achieving in both worlds something none deserved. In between those extremes and all along its continuum, millions of Germans experienced hardships and gains and have, until quite recently, been unable or reluctant to tell their stories. I'm extremely glad that completing the picture of truth is beginning to become excepted - particularly in this era of increasing fanatical exclusionary political views.