WINNER OF THE DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE

A letter from a German soldier to his grandson recounts the terrors of war on the Eastern Front, and a postwar ordinary life in search of atonement, in this “raw, visceral, and propulsive” novel (New York Times Book Review).

New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
 
In the throes of the Second World War, young Meissner, a college student with dreams of becoming a scientist, is drafted into the German army and sent to the Eastern Front. But soon his regiment collapses in the face of the onslaught of the Red Army, hell-bent on revenge in its race to Berlin. Many decades later, now an old man reckoning with his past, Meissner pens a letter to his grandson explaining his actions, his guilt as a Nazi participator, and the difficulty of life after war.
 
Found among his effects after his death, the letter is at once a thrilling story of adventure and a questing rumination on the moral ambiguity of war. In his years spent fighting the Russians and attempting afterward to survive the Gulag, Meissner recounts a life lived in perseverance and atonement. Wracked with shame—both for himself and for Germany—the grandfather explains his dark rationale, exults in the courage of others, and blurs the boundaries of right and wrong.
 
We Germans complicates our most steadfast beliefs and seeks to account for the complicity of an entire country in the perpetration of heinous acts. In this breathless and page-turning story, Alexander Starritt also presents us with a deft exploration of the moral contradictions inherent in saving one's own life at the cost of the lives of others and asks whether we can ever truly atone.

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