Reviews

The Dark Room

Patty Osborne

Several journeys go on in the three parts of The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert (Knopf). First we meet Helmut, a young man who doesn’t go far from Berlin but spends many hours on the platform of his local train station watching his city empty of people as Germany comes under the influence of Hitler and then goes to war. Helmut is exempt from military service because of a bad arm and he keeps busy taking photos of the changing city, never realizing the meaning of the events he witnesses. In the second part of the book, a teenaged girl named Lore leads her four younger siblings from the countryside, to which they have been evacuated, back to the city, where their grandmother lives. After Germany’s surrender, Lore’s parents have been taken captive by the Allies and all unauthorized travel is forbidden. The children must dodge the occupying Russians, Brits and Americans and at the same time scrounge for food and shelter amid a frightened and desperate population. The third part of the book takes place fifty years after the war when Micha, a young German man, travels from Berlin to Minsk, where he tries to put to rest his questions about what role his grandfather played in the Nazi atrocities that took place there. None of the three stories offers any conclusions; together they paint a compelling picture of the complexity of human responses to the Nazi regime.

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