Publisher description for In my brother's shadow : a life and death in the SS / Uwe Timm ; translated from the German by Anthea Bell.


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A renowned German novelist's memoir of his brother, who joined the SS and was killed at the Russian front.

Uwe Timm was only two years old when in 1942 his older brother, Karl Heinz, announced to his family he had volunteered for service with an elite squadron of the German army, the SS Totenkopf Division, also known as Death's Heads. Little more than a year later Karl Heinz was injured in battle at the Russian front, his legs amputated, and a few weeks after that he died in a military hospital. To their father, Karl Heinz's death only served to immortalize him as the courageous one, the obedient one, the one who upheld the family honor. His childhood was marked by the mythology of his brother's lost life his absence-the hole he left in the family-just as palpable as if he were still alive. His mother's sadness and his father's rage over the loss of Karl Heinz ultimately defined Uwe's relationship with his parents. But while they eulogized the boy, Uwe wondered: who really had his brother been?

The life and death of his older brother has haunted Uwe Timm for more than sixty years. His parents' silence was one of the most painful aspects of his family history. Not even after the war ended, and details of unspeakable horrors emerged, did his parents ever acknowledge Germany's guilt and Karl Heinz's role in it. They simply said: We didn't know. After the deaths of his parents and older sister Timm set out in search of answers. Using military reports, letters, family photos and cryptic entries from a diary his brother kept during the war, he began to piece together the picture, discovering his brother's story is not just that of one man, but the tragedy of an entire generation. In the Shadow of My Brother is a meditation on German history and guilt, one that is both nuanced and measured.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Timm, Uwe, 1940- Family