What If Your Mother Was a Nazi Soldier?
The slim book I read this weekend by Helga Schneider is a true story about a woman whose mother left her when she was four to be an SS soldier. Let Me Go tells of the second meeting she had with her mother after being abandoned so many years earlier. It was in Vienna in 1998 and her mother was almost 90.
This book is narrated in the first person by Helga Schneider. Her mother is still proud of having been an SS soldier. She worked at Birkenau where a psychotic doctor ran all sorts of abominable tests on the prisoners. She admits during this meeting that she helped prepare many of the people for the “tests”. She also worked in Auschwitz and talked callously about killing people in the gas chambers.
Since I’ve always lived in the United States, I was surprised to know that there are/were people who remained loyal to Hitler’s cause so many years after the war. In our country his regime is seen as inhumane and despicable. Helga could not understand her mother, either. But her mother had friends in Vienna who accepted her and her beliefs, so now I have to believe there are others as well.
Helga tries to understand her mother but can’t. How could this woman abandon her two small children? She never tried to contact them either during the war or all those years after. Helga has had to learn to live not only with her mother’s defection and the abuse from her stepmother, but with the fact that her mother preferred the “Aryan Way” and its evil over her.
Let Me Go doesn’t resolve anything. It’s a brief moment that allows Helga to realize her mother will not cure the demons she left to her children. But Helga is able to find a semblance of peace herself.