> Skip to content
  • Published: 16 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781847926357
  • Imprint: Bodley Head
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 208
  • RRP: $32.99

The Broken House

Growing up Under Hitler - The Lost Masterpiece

The major rediscovery of a forgotten masterpiece in the mould of Alone in Berlin and Stoner - the literary memoir of a youth in Nazi Germany.

In 1965 the German journalist Horst Krüger attended the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt, where 22 former camp guards were put on trial for the systematic murder of over 1 million men, women and children. Twenty years after the end of the war, this was the first time that the German people were confronted with the horrific details of the Holocaust executed by 'ordinary men' still living in their midst.

The trial sent Krüger back to his childhood in the 1930s, in an attempt to understand 'how it really was, that incomprehensible time'. He had grown up in a Berlin suburb, among a community of decent, lower-middle-class homeowners. This was not the world of torch-lit processions and endless ranks of marching SA men. Here, people lived ordinary, non-political lives, believed in God and obeyed the law, but were gradually seduced and intoxicated by the promises of Nazism. He had been, Krüger realised, 'the typical child of innocuous Germans who were never Nazis, and without whom the Nazis would never have been able to do their work'.

This world of respectability, order and duty began to crumble when tragedy struck. Krüger's older sister decided to take her own life, leaving the parents struggling to come to terms with the inexplicable. The author's teenage rebellion, his desire to escape the stifling conformity of family life, made him join an anti-Nazi resistance group. He narrowly escaped imprisonment only to be sent to war as Hitler embarked on the conquest of Europe. Step by step, a family that had fallen under the spell of Nazism was being destroyed by it.

Written in accomplished prose of lingering beauty, The Broken House is a moving coming-of-age story that provides an unforgettable portrait of life under the Nazis. Yet the book's themes also chime with our own times - how the promise of an 'era of greatness' by a populist leader intoxicates an entire nation, how thin is the veneer of civilisation, and what makes one person a collaborator and another a resister.

  • Published: 16 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781847926357
  • Imprint: Bodley Head
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 208
  • RRP: $32.99

About the author

Horst Krüger

Horst Krüger (1919–99) was a German journalist, novelist and travel writer. Published in 1966, A Crack in the Wall was critically acclaimed as an exemplary portrait of youth in Nazi Germany.

Praise for The Broken House

A masterpiece. An astonishing piece of literature. Complex, heartfelt, vibrant, intense, urgent. A must read. I read it straight through to the last page and then wanted to read it all over again

Thomas Harding, bestselling author of Hanns and Rudolf

The major rediscovery of a forgotten treasure. No book has ever so honestly evoked the wretched terror of life in Nazi Germany

James Hawes, author of The Shortest History of Germany

I often think that the key to a successful memoir is to find the right place to stand, the effective distance. Writing in the sixties, Kruger had enough clarity to see where his story fitted into the big picture, but he can still make the reader feel the passion, danger and grief. It is an unsparing, honest and insightful memoir, that shows how private failure becomes national disaster. There is no mercy from the author and no false hope, but he fills a gap in the historical imagination

Hilary Mantel

A fascinating and spine-chilling book

Julia Franck

Exquisitely written... haunting... Few books, I think, capture so well the sense of a life broken for ever by trauma and guilt

Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times

The book that broke the silence... the writing glowers from the page - sorrowful, disbelieving, chastened and yet not without hope... The Broken House... magnificently delivers

Anthony Quinn, Observer

A book of hard-won simplicity and quite beautiful precision

The Times

Extraordinary... a compelling...account

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

It is precisely the ordinariness of Krüger's life that makes this not just a book about Nazism and Germany but also a book for our own times... In an age when democracy is under threat everywhere...it's salutary to learn how one family, one indvidual among many, could stand by while evil triumphed... Krüger's limpid, almost poetic prose, well translated by Shaun Whiteside, conjures vivd, concrete images of the dullness of life in Eichkamp

Richard J Evans, Guardian

The Broken House... stands out for Krüger's unsparing perceptions of the past and the sharpness and eloquence of his prose... It is Krüger's tone, stark and unforgiving, sometimes almost chillingly detached, that makes this memoir so interesting

Caroline Moorehead, Times Literary Supplement

Related titles