Geoffrey Hawthorn

  • Forgotten Fatherland: The Search for Elisabeth Nietzsche by Ben Macintyre
    Macmillan, 256 pp, £17.50, April 1992, ISBN 0 333 55914 2

Ben Macintyre had a question that few of us have had to face. How do you start a conversation with a lost tribe of Aryans? Having sweated and bumped his way into northern Paraguay, just beyond the confluence of the Aguaraya-umi and Aguaraya-guazu, Macintyre had at last arrived at a small valley, on the far ridge of which were some shacks. ‘That,’ said the man who’d brought him on horseback from the river boat, ‘is Nueva Germania.’ Macintyre had come to look for descendants of the Saxons whom Elisabeth Nietzsche and her husband had brought there in the 1880s. He put ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ into his Walkman – ‘to get myself in the mood’ – turned up the volume, took some food, and waited for an authentic German to show up. Soon one did, dismounted from his stallion, and introduced himself as Dr Schubert. It was time for the question. ‘What,’ Macintyre asked him, ‘are you doing here?’

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