The Hangman’s Daughter

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Oliver Pötzsch from Bavaria is part of a long line of hangmen. This book, his first, features  Jakob Kuisl, town hangman and torturer in the mid 1500’s, and ancestor of Pötzsch.

The details of torture and herbal medicines of the time are well researched. I would assume that Pötzsch visited Schongau, since he lives 90 kilometers north in Munich. The ancient walls of the old city still exist, as well as a few buildings.

There are three main story lines which overlap. The main story involves a search for missing children before all of them are murdered by a mysterious man the townspeople came to call the Devil. The second story is of the midwife who was thrown into the keep, charged with witchcraft and the murders of the children. Kuisl believes she is innocent, but must torture her anyway. The third story line involves the growing relationship between the hangman’s daughter–Magdalena–and the young doctor–Simon.

I liked the book. It was a good read for me, but it does have some problems. Pötzsch did violate a couple of important rules for writing: too much repetition and  not enough stress on the heroes. There were also many modern American idioms throughout the book that I suspect can be largely blamed on the translation.

Still, a good book.

Mike Lawrence

D-Day Through German Eyes

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These two books make up a gold mine for understanding what it was like on the other side. We get to understand how successful propaganda was for the common soldiers and how that played into their willingness to fight to the death. We also catch glimpses of how close we came to losing the battle. The Germans had several weapons that could have changed the outcome had they been quickly and fully deployed, and that doesn’t even count their panzers.

These two books are the result of interviews made in 1954 by Dieter Eckhertz, the grandfather of Holger Eckhertz. Dieter died in 1955 before he could compile the interviews into a book. His records remained untouched for decades until Holger decided to finish the task.

The accounts are detailed and brutally bloody. If you had a hard time watching the first 20 minutes of Private Ryan, don’t bother reading these books. But if you want to understand the history of the war, this read is a must.

Mike Lawrence