The Pendulum: A Granddaughter's Search for Her Family's Forbidden Nazi Past.
The Pendulum: A Granddaughter's Search for Her Family's Forbidden Nazi Past. By Julie Lindahl. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Litdefield, 2018. Pp. xiv, 241. $24.95.)
"If I looked back would I, like Lot's wife, turn into a pillar of salt? Would I become brittle and crumble at the sight of devastation as I looked over my shoulder?" (ix). This was Julie Lindahl's fear when, overcome after years of gnawing anxiety about what stood behind her family's silence on the subject of her grandfather and the Second World War, she undertook to find out the truth. That pursuit began in earnest in 2010 and concluded with the completion of The Pendulum in 2018. The book is her first-person account of the process of revelation, and a sustained rumination on the morbid past and how vitally essential it is to confront this honestly.
Lindahl's exhaustive, multinational--indeed, intercontinental--search for the truth of her family's past took her to the Federal Archives in Berlin, to rural and small-town Poland, to the clandestine postwar haunts of SS men, and ultimately to Latin America, where she discovered an entire branch of her family she had never known existed. Along the way, she was supported by the encouragement of scholars and archivists, and by the openness and even gratitude of Polish survivors of her predatory Nazi grandfather. "Opa" had joined the Nazi Party before 1933 and was a member of the elite SS Cavalry. From the start of the war in September 1939 to the evacuation before the Red Army in January 1945, he was as a feudal baron in annexed Poland, and he lavishly enjoyed the privileges to which his race entitled him.
If her search for the truth was a success, Lindahl's "search for the Holy Grail of remorse" was a failure (219). The guilty participants in the Nazi past whom she encountered never evinced a shred of repentance. Among these was her grandmother, "Oma," who, until her death in 2014 at nearly the age of 103, continued to maintain her Social Darwinian attitudes, her contempt for Poles, her blunt denial of the Holocaust--all constructs of "Jewish propaganda" (98). She was the same person who, in the 1980s, smugly viewed the AIDS epidemic as confirmation of her ideology, and who criticized her granddaughter's marriage for introducing "genetic uncertainties" into the family (118). Indeed, she was the same person she had been on her husband's estate in Poland during the war. As to investigating the past, Oma was vehement: "I don't know why you look into it! You know nothing about that time. It doesn't belong to you!" (emphasis in the original).
Julie disagreed. And she did not turn to salt when she courageously faced the blazing violence of her family's past, and of European history in the 20th century, more generally. She turned into an author and an educator. Facing history honestly is an imperative Julie Lindahl has personally embraced. In doing so, she has set an example we must hope her students and our society will follow.
Florida Southern College
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2019|
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