A Gutter Subject
- BuyNot Me: Memoirs of a German Childhood by Joachim Fest, translated by Martin Chalmers
Atlantic, 316 pp, £20.00, August 2012, ISBN 978 1 84354 931 4
To be right when everybody else has been wrong can be a lonely, even disabling experience. This may be a way of understanding the enigmatic character of Joachim Fest, the German historian, journalist and editor who died six years ago. His Berlin family belonged to the Bildungsbürgertum – roughly, the well-educated middle class – and rejected Hitler and National Socialism from the very first moment. They were not part of any resistance group; they did nothing ‘active’ to damage the Nazi dictatorship. They simply refused to let this dirty, vulgar, evil thing across the threshold until, in the final stages of the war, it broke in and took their sons and their father away to defend the collapsing Reich. For their defiance – refusing to join the Hitler Youth or League of German Maidens voluntarily, refusing to abandon their Jewish friends until they ‘disappeared’ – the father lost his job as a headmaster and was banned from all employment. The family was repeatedly threatened by the Gestapo and denounced by its neighbours. They were lucky nothing worse happened to them.