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Carpe Librum

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Historical Novel Society

The End of Law by Therese Down

The End of Law: A Novel of Hitler's Germany - Therese Down

With so many WWII novels to choose from, I almost did not pick this one up. I am glad that I did. By focusing on characters who are modeled on actual participants in the German T4 program, the author manages a new point of view on an era that has had much written about it.

Our initial view of Hedda is one of a spoiled and vapid woman, and it is difficult to imagine her becoming involved in any worthwhile cause. She marries Walter, who is just as shallow but with a cruel streak. Karl is our guy to root for from the beginning, though even he finds himself wrapped up in atrocities that eventually overwhelm him.

The secret program that each character finds themselves involved in is Hitler's goal to obliterate "unworthies." The focus is not upon the extermination of the Jews, though there are some scenes of their persecution. Instead, we see how the German leaders tore children from their parents and wives from their husbands because they were mentally ill or physically disabled. "Transferred for special care," these family members would never be seen again.

Could a man sign the order for his own child's death or give over his wife to Nazi psychiatrists? You'd be surprised what Nazi brainwashing convinced people to do.

This is also a story of those who did not give in to this insanity. Some people stood up and refused to follow orders to kill children, or destroyed shipments of drugs intended to cause their deaths, or gave up their own lives rather than participating in taking that of others.

That is at the center of this story and a question that many of us have probably asked ourselves as we learn about WWII. How could so many people get caught up in this or step back as they watched it happen? Why did so few come forward and defend their friends, neighbors, and countrymen?

But some did, regardless of the cost. They weren't all saints, and some of them had to hit rock bottom before they realized they could not perpetuate the Nazi system any longer. Even those who saved one had to watch hundreds more go to their deaths. This book tells that story of imperfect people attempting to make their way in a world gone mad.

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.