Non­fic­tion

Belong­ing: A Ger­man Reck­ons with His­to­ry and Home

  • Review
By – May 4, 2018

In this graph­ic mem­oir, illus­tra­tor and writer Nora Krug explores what it means to have Ger­man grand­par­ents who may or may not have been com­plic­it in the atroc­i­ties of the Nazi régime. They might have been offend­ers, or maybe bystanders, but were nev­er will­ing to share their mem­o­ries of those years.

After hap­pen­stance encoun­ters with Holo­caust sur­vivors that made her real­ize how much there was to dis­cov­er about her family’s past, Krug decid­ed to return to her ances­tral vil­lage. She vis­it­ed neigh­bor­ing towns and scoured region­al archives to painstak­ing­ly piece togeth­er facts about her fam­i­ly and their neigh­bors, both Chris­t­ian and Jewish.

Frame by frame, Krug illus­trates the com­plex­i­ties of her fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships; how deeply the events of World War II and the Holo­caust con­tin­ue to affect peo­ple today; and the courage it takes to probe (and over­come) the rifts and dis­con­nec­tions caused by events that occurred two gen­er­a­tions ago.

Through illus­tra­tions, col­lages, and text, Krug reveals an increas­ing­ly com­pre­hen­sive nar­ra­tive of what was and what may have been. She digs into sto­ries about life and death, sur­vival and mur­der, action and inac­tion, par­tic­i­pa­tion and wit­ness­ing. She asks how to reck­on with guilt and respon­si­bil­i­ty, and how to own what is yours — inher­it­ed or cho­sen, uncom­fort­able or delight­ful. We watch her for­go quick moral judg­ments and come to the com­pas­sion­ate real­iza­tion that war is hell for everybody.

Krug’s book is a worth­while jour­ney toward a deep­er under­stand­ing of one’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to repair what has been destroyed.

Rein­hild Draeger-Muenke is a licensed psy­chol­o­gist and fam­i­ly ther­a­pist spe­cial­iz­ing in help­ing peo­ple of all ages heal from trau­mat­ic expe­ri­ences. Born in Ger­many, she lived in Israel and France before mov­ing to the Unit­ed States in 1982.

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