Thoughts on: Shadows Walking by Douglas R. Skopp

January 9, 2012

About:
Shadows Walking by Douglas Skopp is a fictional novel about a Nazi doctor battling his conscience after the war. While this novel was difficult to read, it was also difficult to put down.

The author is giv­ing away one signed copy of this book to two winners— enter at the end of the post.

  • 482 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace
  • ISBN: 1439231990
My rating for Shadows Walking5

Great price on this book in paper or elec­tronic for­mat
through the Man of la Book Affil­i­ate Account

Check out this & more World War II books on Man of la BookStore

Thoughts:
One of the phenomena which, to me, is fascinating is how people blindly follow others even though they know that the leaders are wrong, manipulative or even worst, that what they are doing is against their own upbringing.

How could people who consider themselves national socialists (Nazis) act to this way towards their own families and neighbors? How could a regime train hundreds and thousands of people to murder civilians, children, women and the elderly? What happened when one suddenly realizes that he or she is the “bad person” in the story of life?

This is one of the questions Douglas R. Skopp (website | Facebook | Twitter) is trying to answer in his fascinating book Shadows Walking. In this book Skopp, who is a historian, uses Johann Brenner, a doctor from Bavaria, as the protagonist who questions himself over his role as a Nazi doctor in Auschwitz.

This is a bleak novel describing some of the medical atrocities which happened in concentration camps in vivid detail. The protagonist, Dr. Johann Brenner, agrees to participate in castration experiments on Jewish prisoners. How Dr. Brenner comes to terms with his heinous acts as well as being conflicted about the role that Jews played in the destruction of Germany (according to Nazi propaganda) weighed against his intimate knowledge of Jewish friends is one of the interesting angles of Shadows Walking.

Dr. Brenner is never a sympathetic character, a very brave choice for a protagonist and a dangerous gamble by the author which paid off. The protagonist is introduced as a Nazi doctor while the story examines how, from an honorable well meaning man he became a part of such harsh acts.

Mr. Skopp, a historian, also goes to length to describe how World War I laid the ground works, in social as well as economical aspects, to the rise of the Third Reich and World War II. I wouldn’t be surprised if in several hundred years historians will combine both world wars into one.

What really struck home, especially after the last 10 years or so is how the false sense of patriotism can play a major role in the way people react in a group. As everyone knows a crowd-mentality is dangerous and can cause good people to do bad thing and, as we saw in Rwanda for example, government sanctioned atrocities can quickly spiral out of control when the populace takes their sense of patriotism to new heights.

So tell me, what book have you read that was uncomfortable to read yet difficult to put down?

Books in similar vein:
Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eye­wit­ness Account by Dr. Mik­lós Nyis­zli (one of the books used in the research of Shadows Walking)
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg
Field Gray by Philip Kerr
Gated Grief by Leila Levinson

Synopsis:
Dr. Johann Brenner is an idealistic man and a German nationalist. Dr. Brenner has joined the Nazi party out of a sense of patriotism and believes their propaganda even though it clashes with his real world experiences.

After the war ended, Brenner has accidentally taken on a new identity and becomes a janitor in the courthouse where the Nuremberg Trials are being heard. Trying to heal is conscious, Brenner writes a letter to his wife which set up each chapter of the book.

Great price on this book in paper or elec­tronic for­mat
through the Man of la Book Affil­i­ate Account

Check out this & more World War II books on Man of la BookStore

Give­away

  • Give­away ends: Jan­u­ary 10, 2012

  • This is an inter­na­tional contest

  • Win­ners will have 24 hours to write back with their address, oth­er­wise an alter­nate win­ner will be picked

Congratulations: ebveronis@, skkorman@

Zohar – Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I got this book for free.
Article first published as Book Review: Shadows Walking by Douglas R. Skopp on Blogcritics.

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13 Comments

  • Anna January 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    I just had a similar experience reading The Gendarme, about the Armenian genocide. It was an interesting book, but it was really hard to read, as it was from the POV of one of the perpetrators. Will keep this book in mind and link to your review on War Through the Generations.

    • Zohar - Man of la Book January 10, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Thanks for the recommendation Anna.Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eye­wit­ness Account by Dr. Mik­lós Nyis­zli (was also a difficult one to read.

  • Clenna January 9, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    What a fascinating story.

    Clenna@aol.com

  • Clenna January 9, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Google plus, RSS, Networked blod names: Clenna Emery

  • Sheila K. January 9, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    I entered on Rafflecopter!

    skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

  • Sheila K. January 9, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Networked Blogs as Sheila Korman

  • Julie @ Knitting and Sundries January 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    What a great review of what looks like a thought-provoking book. I know I will enjoy this one as well (if enjoy is the right word for this subject). Anything that makes you draw parallels to other real-life incidents and causes you to wonder what you would do in a similar situation – I just really like books that make you think.

    One book that I read that made me uncomfortable (not based on real-life events) is Strangers at the Feast. You have what society deems “bad people” who do a bad thing, but you feel kind of sorry for them vs. “good people” who do an even worse thing and get away with it.

    • Doug Skopp January 16, 2012 at 6:50 pm

      Thank you, Julie, and all the others, and thank you especially, Zohar, for your interest in my novel, Shadows Walking. I agree, Julie, Shadows Walking because of its theme and focus is not an “enjoyable” book–my hope, though, is that it is worthwhile, and for exactly the reason you describe: what would I have done if I were there? Asking ourselves this provocative question, even though, I admit, we cannot really know with certainty the answer, might help us become more compassionate and understanding. I don’t justify or excuse any Nazi beliefs or actions whatsoever. I merely wanted to explore how an ordinary man of good intentions could find reasons to believe in the Nazis’ cause and do great harm, even when he thought he was doing good. With best wishes, Doug Skopp

  • Donna L January 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Please enter me into this giveaway.

    dlhaley[at]hotmail[dot]com

  • Donna L January 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    I follow via NetworkedBlog. Donna Haley

  • Teawench January 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    I’m late to the party but this sounds quite interesting. One of my favorite books is Nazi Doctors by Robert J Lifton (I think). A non-fiction account of the Nazi doctors and the experiments they performed on people. It would be interesting to read the fiction after the non-fiction. Definitely going on my TBB list.

    • Zohar - Man of la Book January 18, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll make sure to check it out.

    • Doug Skopp January 24, 2012 at 11:15 am

      Yes, Lifton’s account of Nazi physicians and their choices is a splendid historical analysis. It appeared before I completed my research in German and English archives (1986). I used it and many other sources to help me sketch out my novel’s main character, Johann Brenner. Lifton’s work is more attentive to the Nazi era than to the events that came before it, which (I believe) shaped the values that led to the Nazis’ atrocities. Nazi doctors didn’t just appear from under a rock once Hitler assumed power. They were trained at medical schools and began their practices much earlier, in political, economic and social conditions that tilted them away from honoring the Hippocratic Oath and toward racism and eugenics. That’s what I want to emphasize in Shadows Walking. Thank you for your interest. I hope you will read my novel and find it worthwhile. With best wishes, Doug Skopp

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