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Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home

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Nora Krug's story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history. Nora Krug was born decades after the fall of the Nazi regime, but the Second World War cast a long shadow throughout her childhood and youth in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. For Nora Krug's story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history. Nora Krug was born decades after the fall of the Nazi regime, but the Second World War cast a long shadow throughout her childhood and youth in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. For Nora, the simple fact of her German citizenship bound her to the Holocaust and its unspeakable atrocities and left her without a sense of cultural belonging. Yet Nora knew little about her own family’s involvement in the war: though all four grandparents lived through the war, they never spoke of it. In her late thirties, after twelve years in the US, Krug realizes that living abroad has only intensified her need to ask the questions she didn’t dare to as a child and young adult. Returning to Germany, she visits archives, conducts research, and interviews family members, uncovering in the process the stories of her maternal grandfather, a driving teacher in Karlsruhe during the war, and her father’s brother Franz-Karl, who died as a teenage SS soldier in Italy. Her quest, spanning continents and generations, pieces together her family’s troubling story and reflects on what it means to be a German of her generation.


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Nora Krug's story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history. Nora Krug was born decades after the fall of the Nazi regime, but the Second World War cast a long shadow throughout her childhood and youth in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. For Nora Krug's story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history. Nora Krug was born decades after the fall of the Nazi regime, but the Second World War cast a long shadow throughout her childhood and youth in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. For Nora, the simple fact of her German citizenship bound her to the Holocaust and its unspeakable atrocities and left her without a sense of cultural belonging. Yet Nora knew little about her own family’s involvement in the war: though all four grandparents lived through the war, they never spoke of it. In her late thirties, after twelve years in the US, Krug realizes that living abroad has only intensified her need to ask the questions she didn’t dare to as a child and young adult. Returning to Germany, she visits archives, conducts research, and interviews family members, uncovering in the process the stories of her maternal grandfather, a driving teacher in Karlsruhe during the war, and her father’s brother Franz-Karl, who died as a teenage SS soldier in Italy. Her quest, spanning continents and generations, pieces together her family’s troubling story and reflects on what it means to be a German of her generation.

30 review for Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    I slowly began to accept that my knowledge will have limits, that I’ll never know exactly what Willi thought, what he saw or heard, what he decided to do or not to do, what he could have done and failed to do, and why. This is not an easy book to read. It's a graphic memoir of what it was like to grow up in a post-Hitler Germany. In Krug's childhood, the Holocaust looms in the background of everything but is rarely spoken about. The book looks at the collective shame of the German people-- a I slowly began to accept that my knowledge will have limits, that I’ll never know exactly what Willi thought, what he saw or heard, what he decided to do or not to do, what he could have done and failed to do, and why. This is not an easy book to read. It's a graphic memoir of what it was like to grow up in a post-Hitler Germany. In Krug's childhood, the Holocaust looms in the background of everything but is rarely spoken about. The book looks at the collective shame of the German people-- a shame drilled so deep that the word "heimat" or "homeland" brings no sense of pride; a shame that means hiding your accent to avoid provoking strong and painful emotions in those you meet. The mixed art is very powerful. Krug uses a scrapbook-style scattering of images, clippings and traditional comic strip art to first explore her own upbringing, and then later to delve into her family's past. There's nothing simple about this book at all. It's both an informative read for the non-German reader, and an emotional memoir. It's also a good little piece of investigative journalism, though nowhere near as dispassionate as that sounds. Krug finds herself asking the difficult questions that no one in her family seems willing to ask. She wants to know - she has to know - what role her grandparents played in the Nazi atrocities. For what reason? She's not sure. Perhaps to absolve them in her mind; perhaps to adequately blame them. Whatever the reasoning, I felt every bit of the author’s desperation to find out about her grandparents. I sat along as she dug into their history and hoped so very much that they weren’t guilty of the worst crimes. I, too, wanted it to not be them. I wanted them to have been the good guys. Ultimately, though, it's not that easy and Krug knows it all too well. Most Germans were complicit in some way; the true "good guys" didn't live to tell the tale. Despite an extensive investigation, many answers remain out of reach. Not a simple read, or fully satisfying, but thought-provoking nonetheless. CW: antisemitism; holocaust (disturbing images). Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    This is an unusual book, which somehow manages to be both lyrical and extremely matter-of-fact. Nora is German, and although she has lived most of her life in the US and was anyway born long after the events in question, she feels horrible guilt about what her country has done. Over six million people were cruelly murdered; surely a large part of the German population knew about it and in some way were involved. After a while, her initially unspecific feelings begin to crystallise out into a This is an unusual book, which somehow manages to be both lyrical and extremely matter-of-fact. Nora is German, and although she has lived most of her life in the US and was anyway born long after the events in question, she feels horrible guilt about what her country has done. Over six million people were cruelly murdered; surely a large part of the German population knew about it and in some way were involved. After a while, her initially unspecific feelings begin to crystallise out into a precise set of questions. What did her own relatives do during the Nazi period? Did they kill Jews? Did they concretely help Hitler's criminal regime? If so, in what ways? She starts investigating: talking to old German people, visiting archives to request files that haven't been viewed in decades, collecting postcards from flea markets and antique shops. After a several years of careful detective work, she discovers a surprising amount. The story of her persistent search is often quite moving. I found the book emotionally engaging in two different and opposing ways. On the one hand, my father's family is Jewish, and many of my relatives were killed by the Germans that Nora is tracking down. I read about the pathetically inadequate denazification programme, which I had not previously seen described in this detail, and I was outraged. Evidently, many, perhaps even most of the murderers got away clean. People stonewalled and used the classic tactics of omerta: they didn't know anything, they weren't there, they had no part in it, when they did it was only the bare minimum because they were forced to. They did their best to be assigned to the lowest category, that of "Follower": members of the Nazi state who had not done anything worse than go with the flow, because they were too scared and lacking in moral fibre to oppose it. Evidently, a large number of the Germans assigned to the "Follower" category had in fact done much more serious things, but because there was no straightforward way to prove it they escaped the consequences of their actions. Nora goes into the details of some cases. The electrician who claimed that he'd accidentally burned down the local synagogue while fixing a fuse box got his story to stick, even though everyone knew the fire was started intentionally. After the war, he founded a successful business which is still around. Nora sees one of their vans in the street when she visits. I was angry about the past, but as the book progressed a second feeling began to grow, a dread of the future. Politicians often talk about the judgement of history, and it's reassuring to imagine that this only applies to important public figures. But as we can see here, that isn't true. Nora, tracking things down half a century after the fact, cares passionately about what her grandfather did. Was he a member of the Nazi Party? If so, why did he join? What concrete part did he play in the persecution and eventual murder of most of the local Jews? Where was he when the critical events occurred? She manages to find plausible answers to several of these questions. So who in the future is watching me? What am I doing about the critical questions of our own time, some of which may have consequences just as horrible as the Shoah? Nora's grandfather has good practical reasons for wanting to join the Nazis. He doesn't like them much, but it makes life simpler. In general, it's almost always easier to be a Follower. At least for a while. You will gather that this book might make you think. If you don't like doing that, I definitely advise you to avoid it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)

    Can I give it an extra star?

  4. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    Nora Krug is German-American, married to a Jewish man. Like I imagine many Germans and those in exile, she had some anguished curiosity about her family's (possible/probable) implication in the Holocaust, so she spent several years getting answers. The resulting book is multi-genre, part illustrated story, part comics, part family history, part history, part mystery. Much of what she discovers is not particularly surprising, but there are indeed revelations worth waiting for. Here's a New Yorker Nora Krug is German-American, married to a Jewish man. Like I imagine many Germans and those in exile, she had some anguished curiosity about her family's (possible/probable) implication in the Holocaust, so she spent several years getting answers. The resulting book is multi-genre, part illustrated story, part comics, part family history, part history, part mystery. Much of what she discovers is not particularly surprising, but there are indeed revelations worth waiting for. Here's a New Yorker interview with Krug: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cul... Here's a comics review of Krug's comic tale: https://momentmag.com/illustrated-boo... This book is gorgeous, and often powerful. It reminded me of a book I have read many times, The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam: An Illustrated Memoir, the story of Ann Fleming's search into the life of the great grandfather she had never known much about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S13d... Both contain surprises, focus on racism, and are fascinating multi-genre/collages.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Greta

    Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home

  6. 4 out of 5

    leynes

    Just uploaded a video talking about my favorite comics of all time. You bet Heimat showed up in there. /// Wow. What a feat. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that one single woman accomplished this. Nora Krug says that it took her six years to finalise this project, two years each for research, writing and drawing purposes. I've never read a graphic memoir that was so thoughtful and so beautifully laid out. You can feel on a visceral level that hours were spent on every single page. The Just uploaded a video talking about my favorite comics of all time. You bet Heimat showed up in there. /// Wow. What a feat. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that one single woman accomplished this. Nora Krug says that it took her six years to finalise this project, two years each for research, writing and drawing purposes. I've never read a graphic memoir that was so thoughtful and so beautifully laid out. You can feel on a visceral level that hours were spent on every single page. The arrangement is flawless, her writing style is beyond beautiful, not to even mention her art. In Heimat, Nora Krug sets out to unbury her family's history, specifically the involvement of her grandparents during the time of WWII in Germany. Considered a taboo subject in her family, Nora Krug has to dig deep to find what she is looking for: memories, military files, documents, diary entries, letters, photographs, old exercise books ... All these memorabilia help her reconstruct a past, a past that she always felt distant to. As an adult, Nora Krug married and American Jew and moved to the United States of America, where she acquired US citizenship. She says she needed this outside perspective on Germany to finally confront her own past through learning more about her grandparents and parents. Nora Krug takes us on a journey with her. A journey on which she rediscovers her love for her (lost) Heimat. For the first time in her life, she is able to become close to parts of her family that are either already dead or that she was never in contact with. Nora Krug's family is not a happy one. Her father is not on speaking terms with his sister. Nora herself never met her aunt or her cousins. Both of her grandfathers have already passed away. Nora knows that her time is running out: if she wants to have firsthand accounts of the war, she has to reconnect to her grandmother, to her aunt (who was already alive in the 1940s). Heimat is an incredibly personal and moving book. Nora shares a lot of intimate information and makes herself very vulnerable through that. I admire that bravery. The honesty and the fact that she doesn't sugercoat anything deserves respect. By confronting her own fears and biases, by looking at her own education (and comparing it to the education of her elders), Nora slowly but surely manages to piece the picture together. Nora Krug takes us down memory lane. She says that as a young girl, when she learned about the Holocaust in school, she wanted to show solidarity by sewing a Yellow badge for herself. She says that her aunt once advised her to tell people that she is from the Netherlands when traveling abroad. But added to the personal nature of her comic book, Nora Krug also managed to educate me. As a German I learned a lot about WWII and the Holocaust, but still, it's impossible to know everything. I was quite shocked when I saw the pictures of Germans who were forced after the war to look at the dead bodies surrounding the concentrations camps, that some local farmers were forced to parade those bodies through the streets so that people were forced to look at them. I will never get that picture of an extremely thin limb dangling from a barrow out of my head. I also found it incredibly interesting to get a close look on her uncle's old exercise books. Her uncle, in 1939 (when he was 12), wrote an story about Jews as poisonous mushrooms. I found it chilling to see that his teacher only corrected his grammar errors and gave it a B for its content. Additionally, it was very eye opening to see the official Nazi documents and the language they implemented. In school, we learn about the Holocaust as if from a removed perspective. Sure, we learn all of the facts and what happened each year from 1933-1945 but we somehow forgot how they relates back to us, that we are essentially talking about the generation of our grandparents. We are never asked to confront our own personal history. We don't get to read personal letters and diary entries from Germans of that time, we only get to analyse the speeches of Hitler and Goebbels. Heimat: A German Family Album is one of the best books I've ever read in my entire life and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is in for a touching and memorable reading experience.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    This would be a great companion read to Svetlana Alexievich's The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II. Both authors try to unearth and record the unspoken, suppressed truths of the WWII. The difference is that Russians were mandated to forget the ugly parts of the war to elevate the winners' narrative of heroism and bravery, and Germans - to hide their guilt and shame, not only from the others, but themselves and their families. Krug's journey to discover the extent of This would be a great companion read to Svetlana Alexievich's The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II. Both authors try to unearth and record the unspoken, suppressed truths of the WWII. The difference is that Russians were mandated to forget the ugly parts of the war to elevate the winners' narrative of heroism and bravery, and Germans - to hide their guilt and shame, not only from the others, but themselves and their families. Krug's journey to discover the extent of her family members' involvement in Nazi atrocities is revelatory, for me at least. I was surprised to learn just how extensive (but not always effective) the Allies investigation of, it seems, every German's crimes was. I was even more impressed by how deliberate and systematic is German's education of their own citizens of the crimes of the past. On the other hand, it made me wonder if it goes too far maybe. Krug's pain at inability to love any part of her homeland or being proud for anything German whatsoever is quite palpable. It's no surprise really that the nationalist movement is on the rise in Germany. Occasionally long-winded, but always thought-provoking.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Templeton

    I am almost overwhelmed at the depth and intensity of this graphic memoir. My husband is a second generation German American, his father was born in Germany shortly before the end of WWII and his mother is of Jewish heritage. As a child, my husband wasn’t taught German and learned very little of his father’s family, never heard stories of the homeland. Reading this book felt like peeking behind an unspoken curtain into some inkling of my father-in-law’s thoughts. I was absolutely captivated both I am almost overwhelmed at the depth and intensity of this graphic memoir. My husband is a second generation German American, his father was born in Germany shortly before the end of WWII and his mother is of Jewish heritage. As a child, my husband wasn’t taught German and learned very little of his father’s family, never heard stories of the homeland. Reading this book felt like peeking behind an unspoken curtain into some inkling of my father-in-law’s thoughts. I was absolutely captivated both for Krug and myself. I will share this digital advanced copy with my husband and hope to build the courage to share a copy with my father-in-law after publication.

  9. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    Started yesterday, finished this morning: this is the first adult picture book I've wanted to read, and as anticipated, I couldn't put it down. I suppose you could shelve this in some rather specific way. The 'my grandparents were Nazis' memoir shelf. Or the 'ordinary people in the period 1930-1950 in Nazi Germany' shelf. For me, I'd put it under 'everybody should read this'. It asks all the questions, without coming up with any answers. But keeping those questions on the tip of our collective Started yesterday, finished this morning: this is the first adult picture book I've wanted to read, and as anticipated, I couldn't put it down. I suppose you could shelve this in some rather specific way. The 'my grandparents were Nazis' memoir shelf. Or the 'ordinary people in the period 1930-1950 in Nazi Germany' shelf. For me, I'd put it under 'everybody should read this'. It asks all the questions, without coming up with any answers. But keeping those questions on the tip of our collective tongue is vital to stopping such horror in the future. We need an autistic attitude, we have to feel that these things have just happened, and could happen any moment again. I do believe that the reason we are seeing the resurgence of the extreme right now is at least partly because our memory is slipping, too many feel like it's a past that isn't connected to the present. But it is. By blood, by education, by culture, by belief, by greed and by all the bad features of being a human which are after all, the reason why we created society in the first place. To try to hold them in check. Thank you Nora Krug, for your search for answers. It is your contribution to our never ending discussion about the meaning of life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Claire Reads Books

    4 1/2 A beautifully constructed memoir, with graphics that utilize hand-drawn panels, archival material, family photographs, and some surprising pieces of cultural paraphernalia. This is some stunning, painstakingly thorough and emotionally compromising visual storytelling, with a probing, worried narrative about family, personal and collective memory, personal and collective guilt, grief, the meaning of homeland, and much more – left me a lot to think about, especially in light of what’s going 4 1/2 ⭐️ A beautifully constructed memoir, with graphics that utilize hand-drawn panels, archival material, family photographs, and some surprising pieces of cultural paraphernalia. This is some stunning, painstakingly thorough and emotionally compromising visual storytelling, with a probing, worried narrative about family, personal and collective memory, personal and collective guilt, grief, the meaning of homeland, and much more – left me a lot to think about, especially in light of what’s going on in the world today.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Monroe

    Are we responsible for the sins of our parents? It's an idea that has helped bankroll many religions, including Christianity, which tells us that thanks to "original sin" (Adam and Eve's initial act of eating those bad apples) we all now need salvation. It's also a belief that fuels much of "woke" culture today, that because of slavery, because of the massacre of the Native Americans (and other horrible crimes), the descendants of white Europeans owe a debt, and not just a financial debt, to the Are we responsible for the sins of our parents? It's an idea that has helped bankroll many religions, including Christianity, which tells us that thanks to "original sin" (Adam and Eve's initial act of eating those bad apples) we all now need salvation. It's also a belief that fuels much of "woke" culture today, that because of slavery, because of the massacre of the Native Americans (and other horrible crimes), the descendants of white Europeans owe a debt, and not just a financial debt, to the descendants of those slaves and various indigenous peoples who were murdered or cast off their land. What price needs to be paid? Should there be reparations for slavery? Do policies like affirmative action help lighten this "white man's burden"? Is it righting past wrongs when Native Americans are able to attend college and university tuition free while others are buried up to their ears in debt? Whether or not we are responsible for the sins of past generations is a fascinating question, one that in our increasingly trivialized culture sees people shouting from the extremes on both sides. But how far down our family trees does our guilt extend? For the actions of which ancestors are we responsible? Does time bury guilt, or will we all one day find ourselves united in our shame while our ancestors' crimes are excavated for all to see? This is, in essence, the question that Nora Krug is wrestling with in "Belonging". How should she "reckon with" her history and home? This is a wonderful, beautiful book that tackles these questions in perhaps the best way — by illustrating them, literally. Each and every page in "Belonging" is wonderfully illustrated. This is part graphic novel, part scrapbook, part photo album. It reads like a novel and like a philosophical treatise. Like an investigative report and like the front page of the paper. It is so many things all in one. Its unique style reminded me at times of Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief as well as W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz. Indeed, Krug cites Sebald's On the Natural History of Destruction as a selected source in the back of her book. The way that Nora Krug uses images to conjure the past is positively Sebaldian, and I think Krug does his oft-used technique justice here. Towards the end of her book and investigation into her maternal grandfather's activities during WWII, Krug ruminates on which outcome would be preferable. Would she rather discover that her father actively opposed the Nazis, even going so far as to hide a Jewish man in his shed? "Or would it be easier to navigate my shame if I had been able to prove his guilt, if I had learned that he had been a Nazi through and through, without the shadow of a doubt?" There is something in the way Krug posits this question that feels familiar, even to those of us relatively confident that we don't have Nazis lurking in our bloodlines. It's that desire to both worship our fathers, to see them as heroes, and to hate them, to loathe them and to love loathing them because it's far easier to reject someone we don't respect and don't have to answer to than it is to live up to the heroic expectations of the revered. It is all too easy to blame our faults on parents who were Nazis — even metaphorical Nazis — than to cast about for someone to blame for our shortcomings but coming back only to ourselves. One thing most people can agree on is that the way the majority of Germans have reacted to the atrocities of the Second World War should serve as a model for the rest of us. But where is the line between "making sure it can't happen again" and feeling nothing but shame for your country, your heritage, your family, for things that happened before you were even born? When does shame end?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bean

    Must write a detailed review later but I have many, many thoughts. - It seems the author's central motivator is ascertaining what amount of guilt and shame she feels (personally, ancestrally, culturally) is actually 'reasonable', based on what her relatives 'did' or 'did not' do. Along the way, the actual suffering of Jewish people in WWII (including intergenerational suffering for their descendants, some of whom she interviews) becomes a backdrop. - The illustrations of anti-Semitism make me Must write a detailed review later but I have many, many thoughts. - It seems the author's central motivator is ascertaining what amount of guilt and shame she feels (personally, ancestrally, culturally) is actually 'reasonable', based on what her relatives 'did' or 'did not' do. Along the way, the actual suffering of Jewish people in WWII (including intergenerational suffering for their descendants, some of whom she interviews) becomes a backdrop. - The illustrations of anti-Semitism make me wonder, who is this book for? If this was a memoir of a Japanese person, detailing their ancestors' involvement in the genocide/colonization of my indigenous Uchinanchu ancestors, I would be sickened by the displays I was reading. I would be traumatized by the photographs of my ancestors' dead bodies in the background of photographs that foreground their brutalizers. There are ways for someone in Krug’s position to share these realities respectfully, and I don’t feel that she does so. - The valuable questions that are raised by this memoir came afterward, from conversations with others. The author's questions seem to focus obsessively on how relieved or disappointed she feels, as she uncovers new information and sorts the truth from apologist family lore. - The art (mixed media collage and illustration) is undeniably powerful. The author's handles a complex web of family history deftly, despite its twists and turns. - I'm glad I read this, but was deeply disappointed by where the author's focus lay. I don't know how to recommend this to others, unless they were interested in reading a societally-powerful person's insufficient grappling with shame, or a meditation on collective shame that has little to do with meaningful reparation/accountability. I think this narrative meant to tease apart the crucial nuance between guilt and shame, but these aren’t thoughtfully explored — instead, Krug’s need to know just what her ancestors did or did not do overwhelms the stories, and is resolved only after barreling past a tremendous amount of trauma (those of Jewish folks, and also her dad’s obviously traumatic relationship with his sister). - Did anyone else think it was very inappropriate for her to join a group of German & Austrian Jews, in hopes that they will love her like a granddaughter?? I was shocked and grossed out.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Negin

    This is a storyin a graphic novel formatabout a German woman’s family during World War II, and her reckoning with her family’s past, as well as her feelings about Germany. I love graphic novels and whenever we visit a good bookstorethey’re often the books that I go searching for first. I really wanted to love this one. The artwork and scrapbook-type design are splendid. The overall contenthowever, wasn’t my favorite. I felt that it was slightly lacking in emotion, and the book dragged a bit. This is a story in a graphic novel format about a German woman’s family during World War II, and her reckoning with her family’s past, as well as her feelings about Germany. I love graphic novels and whenever we visit a good bookstore they’re often the books that I go searching for first. I really wanted to love this one. The artwork and scrapbook-type design are splendid. The overall content however, wasn’t my favorite. I felt that it was slightly lacking in emotion, and the book dragged a bit. 

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    In "The Germans" episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil is told not to mention the war, but he does, frequently, until the guest break out in tears. At the time, I thought it odd that the germans would be upset about it. As Basil said, they started it. I bring this up, because the author of this story, is one such German, who knows about the war, but it is not talked about, though her father's older brother fought and died in World War II. This memoir of how she doesn't feel that she has a home in her In "The Germans" episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil is told not to mention the war, but he does, frequently, until the guest break out in tears. At the time, I thought it odd that the germans would be upset about it. As Basil said, they started it. I bring this up, because the author of this story, is one such German, who knows about the war, but it is not talked about, though her father's older brother fought and died in World War II. This memoir of how she doesn't feel that she has a home in her former homeland, and how she goes in search of what her family did in the war, and what happened to them. There has been a sense of guilt she has felt, from her homeland, and she finds it follows her abroad. It is an amazing book. When the Americans came and saw what had happened in the concentration camps, they forced the citizens to not only look on the dead, but to transport them and give them decent burials. And so, with this background, and the feeling of shame, the author goes in search of the uncle that died int he war, as well as her grandfather. She wants to know if her family really was evil. Did they support Hitler, of were they sheep, just followers. She goes and talks to relatives still living in Germany, and finds source documents, to find the story of those that came before her. It is a long and interesting journey, and one that is part speculation. But the depth that she goes to, in her search, is amazing. What a fanstastic, book, going into the heart and soul of the survivors. Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    Too many people build a family tree of names and dates or get their DNA print out and consider their quest done. Nora Krug does the hard research and bravely reaches into her family history. This is recent history: only two generations past. How did her grandparents, uncles and aunts react to the Nazi’s? How deeply were they into Nazi dogma. Krug visits and interviews relatives. Some are hard to face given the family history. She visits sites, archives and government offices. She sends out Too many people build a family tree of names and dates or get their DNA print out and consider their quest done. Nora Krug does the hard research and bravely reaches into her family history. This is recent history: only two generations past. How did her grandparents, uncles and aunts react to the Nazi’s? How deeply were they into Nazi dogma. Krug visits and interviews relatives. Some are hard to face given the family history. She visits sites, archives and government offices. She sends out letters and makes cold calls. She examines family photos and tries to imagine the people. The result is a very personal story. These are real people, so their stories are not simple. What really happened with her grandfather and his Jewish employer? What of her young uncle who died in the war and how did it relate to her father being cast out on his own? Did her family participate in the burning of the town’s synagogue or the drowning of a Jew in the town’s fountain? Each piece of research poses more questions. Through this story you can see how Nazism took over a small town. You see the violence and how those in control intimidated people. You also see how the post-war de-Nazification took place. Uniforms were dyed; badges removed; insignias scratched off of photos. The author, true to the art form of the book, shows how her grandfather answered questions on his involvement with the Nazi party and with the war. The book has to be seen to be appreciated. The selection of the color scheme, type, page layout and paper (its weight and texture), to say nothing of the elegant drawings, are worthy of book design awards. Not only is a beautiful book to look at, it reads like a poem.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    This graphic memoir is a mix of text, illustrations, photographs, and art. It's not an easy read, but is well worth the time it takes to do so. How many of us really think about the history of our cultures, or country, or of how much we benefited or lost due to events that occured before we were born? This German author is born after the fall of the Nazi regime, but how does one grapple with the legacy of the Holocaust and its unspeakable atrocities? I remember once working with a German of a This graphic memoir is a mix of text, illustrations, photographs, and art. It's not an easy read, but is well worth the time it takes to do so. How many of us really think about the history of our cultures, or country, or of how much we benefited or lost due to events that occured before we were born? This German author is born after the fall of the Nazi regime, but how does one grapple with the legacy of the Holocaust and its unspeakable atrocities? I remember once working with a German of a similar age, who refused to talk about the topic at all. She wouldn't even my answer questions about what they taught in school about WW2. She felt that it was all in the past and that's where it deserved to stay. Unlike my one time co-worker, the author takes a deep dive into learning more about her family, and what their connections/actions were before, during, and after the war. It is an exploration of one's roots, and guilt, and lack of cultural belonging to a nation that you were born in. There were sections that could have used tighter editing, but overall I found it to be a thought provoking read. I really liked how all the material uncovered is presented. The mixed media variety added to the overall charm of this book. There is only so much one can know for sure about one's ancestors, but I appreciated this honest and conflicted personal look into a dark time in history.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Belonging is an absolutely beautiful memoir full of questions about identity, family and homeland. Nora Krug was born and raised in Germany, in the shadow of World War II. Belonging is a deeply personal memoir about her struggles with German identity, coming to terms with her family history, and exploring the German idea of Heimat, or homeland. Her journey leads her to talking to Holocaust survivors in her new homeland of Brooklyn, traveling with her mother and father to Germany, meeting many Belonging is an absolutely beautiful memoir full of questions about identity, family and homeland. Nora Krug was born and raised in Germany, in the shadow of World War II. Belonging is a deeply personal memoir about her struggles with German identity, coming to terms with her family history, and exploring the German idea of Heimat, or homeland. Her journey leads her to talking to Holocaust survivors in her new homeland of Brooklyn, traveling with her mother and father to Germany, meeting many unexpected people and gaining many new insights into her family's history and how it relates to history at large. The artistic style is stunning. The font chosen for the book looks hand written, and photographs and documents are interspersed with illustrations. This is such a deeply personal story, but I related to it on many levels. The search for identity, trying to learn about people in your past who have died long ago, and figuring out where is your homeland were all things I could relate to. Belonging is a masterpiece of a book, a book that makes the best use of a graphic novel format, and a memoir that should join classics like Persepolis or Maus. Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    A German American immigrant feels guilty about her home country's perpetration of the Holocaust and starts to investigate family stories to find the truth of how involved her ancestors were in the Nazi party and the German military during World War II. First, I hate when I open a graphic novel and instead find giant blocks of handwritten text wrapping awkwardly around a single spot illustration or a photograph. Some pages Krug doesn't even bother to include the illustration or photograph. And the A German American immigrant feels guilty about her home country's perpetration of the Holocaust and starts to investigate family stories to find the truth of how involved her ancestors were in the Nazi party and the German military during World War II. First, I hate when I open a graphic novel and instead find giant blocks of handwritten text wrapping awkwardly around a single spot illustration or a photograph. Some pages Krug doesn't even bother to include the illustration or photograph. And the coloring is just a rainbow of ugliness. Despite the above, I initially found myself interested in the giant blocks of text. I was intrigued with the idea of exploring the guilt that hangs over Germans even several generations removed from the Holocaust, just as I as an American have to struggle with my country's history of slavery and the destruction and oppression of indigenous people. I also had some points of contact with the material as my mother's family came from Germany, though long before World War II, and like the author I had a grandfather named Alois. (By the way, each Alois was a farmer who had bad luck with a tractor: Krug's Alois was killed in Germany a couple years after the war, mine lost a leg in Wisconsin.) But as the book progressed I just became increasingly bored by its meandering nature even as revelations were made and Krug flailed about trying to find mitigating circumstances for her ancestors' sins. I could barely keep myself awake as I trudged through the final wad of hideously colored pages.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paltia

    While traveling near Paris and speaking barely passable French I, by chance, met a young German man, also moving across the world. Back then, we were both about 19 years old. We did what people did in those times,we paused for coffee and conversation. Before too long he began to speak at length about German guilt. I’d never heard anyone mention this even in passing. He was equally passionate and troubled by his parent’s generation and all that came with the shoah. I attempted, as only a 19 year While traveling near Paris and speaking barely passable French I, by chance, met a young German man, also moving across the world. Back then, we were both about 19 years old. We did what people did in those times,we paused for coffee and conversation. Before too long he began to speak at length about German guilt. I’d never heard anyone mention this even in passing. He was equally passionate and troubled by his parent’s generation and all that came with the shoah. I attempted, as only a 19 year old would, to alleviate his despair with trite reassurances like, it’s not your fault. See it wasn’t just about his parents it was about his country. He was ashamed. Many years have passed but I’ve never forgotten him or his frustration that he couldn’t make himself understood. It had nothing to do with a language barrier. He spoke eloquently in German, French, and English. This book brought that afternoon conversation in France right back as if it was yesterday. I’m older and hopefully a tiny bit wiser. I’m yelling across the miles, “ I get it.” I sure do.

  20. 5 out of 5

    BHodges

    A book for our time. In this scrapbook of beautiful illustrations Nora Krug shares her personal search for "heimat," a German term describing a place that offers the immediate sense of familiarity. It often refers to the actual landscape where one was born. It shapes a person's identity, character, mentality. It feels like home. Heimat. It's an especially complicated concept for Krug because she traces her family history back through the holocaust. She fears her own history even as she's A book for our time. In this scrapbook of beautiful illustrations Nora Krug shares her personal search for "heimat," a German term describing a place that offers the immediate sense of familiarity. It often refers to the actual landscape where one was born. It shapes a person's identity, character, mentality. It feels like home. Heimat. It's an especially complicated concept for Krug because she traces her family history back through the holocaust. She fears her own history even as she's irresistibly drawn to it, seeking out relatives and documents and artifacts with stories to tell. Or to obscure. Or deny. Is it desirable, or even possible, to find pride and redemption in her history which is connected to one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century? How do we reckon with our own pasts, which are inescapably fraught with both good and evil? I simultaneously couldn't stop reading and wanted to stop reading. I will read it again. I give it my highest recommendation.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    An interesting and excellent use of graphic form in the growing graphic nonfiction genre. Krug goes back through her family's history to learn what they did and who they were during WWII. She is ready to both condemn and embrace, she goes in as a fully empathetic person and her clear-eyed honesty is powerful. It is impossible to read this book and not see the ways in which Germany's reckoning with their past is something the US has not done, it is also clear that their reckoning is still An interesting and excellent use of graphic form in the growing graphic nonfiction genre. Krug goes back through her family's history to learn what they did and who they were during WWII. She is ready to both condemn and embrace, she goes in as a fully empathetic person and her clear-eyed honesty is powerful. It is impossible to read this book and not see the ways in which Germany's reckoning with their past is something the US has not done, it is also clear that their reckoning is still limited, that they can acknowledge collective wrong but struggle to condemn individual wrong. That everyone's stories have been tidied up. It is hard to read this and not worry about our future as a country and a world as fascist regimes and ideas are growing again, the ways in which we all have not reckoned with our individual and collective wrongs. A really affecting and powerful book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Charles Finch

    Found this book fascinating and its use of the medium really interesting (admittedly as someone who doesn't read many graphic novels, to be fair).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    (Note: I received an advanced reader's copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Between the real life photos and documents that are mixed with absolutely gorgeous art, and Nora Krug's meticulous documentation of her quest to unravel and understand her family's history, it's impossible to not feel like you were placed in the author's shoes and taken along for every single step of her journey. You will be unsettled by the same questions and worries that weigh on her, end up feeling the same thirst (Note: I received an advanced reader's copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Between the real life photos and documents that are mixed with absolutely gorgeous art, and Nora Krug's meticulous documentation of her quest to unravel and understand her family's history, it's impossible to not feel like you were placed in the author's shoes and taken along for every single step of her journey. You will be unsettled by the same questions and worries that weigh on her, end up feeling the same thirst for answers, and feel the same grapple of emotions that beset her with every new revelation about the past. It's an experience that you should not pass up, especially considering the present. With mass dehumanization of others on a fierce and continuing rise, Krug will do the much-needed favor of making you think of what it means to have a national past shaped by dark forces. One of the best books I've read this year.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Rosner

    This is a graphic book (not a novel, a memoir) that has the goods. It is a beautiful object. The artwork is a mix of painting, collage, and photograph montages on colorful pages with thoughtful designs. The story is compelling. The search by the author to learn whether or not her grandfather was a bonafide Nazi, and how to reconcile what she might find with her love of many things German. She incorporates interesting factoids about products specifically German and some stories about her parents. This is a graphic book (not a novel, a memoir) that has the goods. It is a beautiful object. The artwork is a mix of painting, collage, and photograph montages on colorful pages with thoughtful designs. The story is compelling. The search by the author to learn whether or not her grandfather was a bonafide Nazi, and how to reconcile what she might find with her love of many things German. She incorporates interesting factoids about products specifically German and some stories about her parents. She is searching for a sense of belonging. I can relate to that. Towards the end, as her search begins to produce results thanks to a lot of research, the internet, and help from other family members near and far, the story gets a little confusing. Too many people with similar or the same names and a few too many cousins. But that is the way of families. It makes perfect sense when you’re in them, but it’s sometimes complicated to explain the connections. At any rate, I recommend to my friends who like to read graphic novels. I think I need to own this one.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Barbara McEwen

    I definitely recommend it. I imagine I would feel the same guilt and shame the author struggles with at times, and difficulties embracing her German-ness? I feel it, although somewhat more removed, with colonialism around the world and in particular with the genocide of native people in Canada. You will be horrified and moved. I learned some history. I felt the author's need, and fear, of discovering her family history. There is a lot to chew on here and I like that. The art is like a cherry on I definitely recommend it. I imagine I would feel the same guilt and shame the author struggles with at times, and difficulties embracing her German-ness? I feel it, although somewhat more removed, with colonialism around the world and in particular with the genocide of native people in Canada. You will be horrified and moved. I learned some history. I felt the author's need, and fear, of discovering her family history. There is a lot to chew on here and I like that. The art is like a cherry on top! Read it and pass it on as some of the mistakes of the past feel eerily current.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Zoë

    Belonging is a powerful, personal memoir in graphic-novel format. Author Nora Krug grew up in the shadow of Germany's role in WWII - due to her family's and her own feelings of guilt, she learned little of her relative's lives or involvement in the war. Belonging is the story of her quest to unbury her family's history, and come to terms with what it means for her personally to be a German. I was fascinated with this story. I can't recall ever reading a non-fiction or memoir style book of the Belonging is a powerful, personal memoir in graphic-novel format. Author Nora Krug grew up in the shadow of Germany's role in WWII - due to her family's and her own feelings of guilt, she learned little of her relative's lives or involvement in the war. Belonging is the story of her quest to unbury her family's history, and come to terms with what it means for her personally to be a German. I was fascinated with this story. I can't recall ever reading a non-fiction or memoir style book of the feelings and experiences of a German born post-WWII. Learning how Krug felt, and how she lives with her country's history was engrossing. Krug is challenged by her discoveries that her family history isn't a simple black-and-white. Learning how multifaceted German lives were during the war, (not the simple Nazi or not-Nazi as I always thought), was enlightening and at times heartbreaking. This story explores the choices people make to protect their family, at the cost of morality, and the shame that results. An intense reminder of how this can happen anywhere, and to anyone.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I loved the author's combination of photos, drawings, and clippings. Appropriate that in trying to piece together her family history that this graphic novel is a bit like a scrapbook. I also enjoyed some glimpses into German culture and a better understanding about how many Germans continue to wrestle with their history.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    this should have been so good but the readability was questionable and it got painfully boring around the halfway point. this is a graphic novel; the fact that it took me almost a full month to read it is not a glowing review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anita Lynch-Cooper

    Need to read the actual book,not suitable for an ereader.....graphics take too long to load. It really is a work of art. She investigates her german family history and nazi involvement . Many questions are never really answered. I was fascinated by her juxtaposition of pictures, drawings, documents and her narration.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cy

    ooh man, this was a complicated book, and my feelings about it were all over the place. a big part of why i didn't love this book was because i was sometimes uncomfortable with the author's motivations. there were parts where it seemed like the only reason she was doing all this research was to figure out whether she should feel guilty or not. it just came across as very self-centered. like another reviewer said, it often felt like the actual suffering of jewish people during the holocaust was ooh man, this was a complicated book, and my feelings about it were all over the place. a big part of why i didn't love this book was because i was sometimes uncomfortable with the author's motivations. there were parts where it seemed like the only reason she was doing all this research was to figure out whether she should feel guilty or not. it just came across as very self-centered. like another reviewer said, it often felt like the actual suffering of jewish people during the holocaust was secondary to the author's own feelings of guilt over her family's involvement. some of her methods of research were uh.....creepy?? towards the end, when she finds who she THINKS might be the son of a friend of her grandfather...she's literally looking up his address on google maps and staring at his house while calling him, which i thought was super weird. that being said, this book does a good job of showing how complicated family is, and how difficult it can be to learn about your own family when there are things people don't want to talk about, due to shame or trauma. i was pretty impressed by the amount of research the author did. she was dedicated to finding the truth, and refused to settle for the stories her family had passed down. it would have been so easy to just believe what she was told, but she knew that what she was told was influenced so much by the years that followed the war, and her family's need to protect themselves. the use of historical documents and photographs in a kind of scrapbook style was really cool. one problem i did have was that the comic pages were sometimes hard to read, because i couldn't figure out what order the panels were meant to be read in. other than that though, the style of the book was really unique and interesting.

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