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Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home

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Named a Best Book of 2018 by The New York Times Critics, The Boston Globe, NPR, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Time (Honorable Mention), Library Journal (Best Graphic Novels), and Comics Beat A revelatory, visually stunning graphic memoir by award-winning artist Nora Krug, telling the story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her f Named a Best Book of 2018 by The New York Times Critics, The Boston Globe, NPR, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Time (Honorable Mention), Library Journal (Best Graphic Novels), and Comics Beat A revelatory, visually stunning graphic memoir by award-winning artist Nora Krug, telling the story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history. Nora Krug was born decades after the fall of the Nazi regime, but the Second World War cast a long shadow throughout her childhood and youth in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. For Nora, the simple fact of her German citizenship bound her to the Holocaust and its unspeakable atrocities and left her without a sense of cultural belonging. Yet Nora knew little about her own family’s involvement in the war: though all four grandparents lived through the war, they never spoke of it. In her late thirties, after twelve years in the US, Krug realizes that living abroad has only intensified her need to ask the questions she didn’t dare to as a child and young adult. Returning to Germany, she visits archives, conducts research, and interviews family members, uncovering in the process the stories of her maternal grandfather, a driving teacher in Karlsruhe during the war, and her father’s brother Franz-Karl, who died as a teenage SS soldier in Italy. Her extraordinary quest, spanning continents and generations, pieces together her family’s troubling story and reflects on what it means to be a German of her generation. Belonging wrestles with the idea of Heimat, the German word for the place that first forms us, where the sensibilities and identity of one generation pass on to the next. In this highly inventive visual memoir—equal parts graphic novel, family scrapbook, and investigative narrative—Nora Krug draws on letters, archival material, flea market finds, and photographs to attempt to understand what it means to belong to one’s country and one’s family. A wholly original record of a German woman’s struggle with the weight of catastrophic history, Belonging is also a reflection on the responsibility that we all have as inheritors of our countries’ pasts.


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Named a Best Book of 2018 by The New York Times Critics, The Boston Globe, NPR, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Time (Honorable Mention), Library Journal (Best Graphic Novels), and Comics Beat A revelatory, visually stunning graphic memoir by award-winning artist Nora Krug, telling the story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her f Named a Best Book of 2018 by The New York Times Critics, The Boston Globe, NPR, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Time (Honorable Mention), Library Journal (Best Graphic Novels), and Comics Beat A revelatory, visually stunning graphic memoir by award-winning artist Nora Krug, telling the story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history. Nora Krug was born decades after the fall of the Nazi regime, but the Second World War cast a long shadow throughout her childhood and youth in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. For Nora, the simple fact of her German citizenship bound her to the Holocaust and its unspeakable atrocities and left her without a sense of cultural belonging. Yet Nora knew little about her own family’s involvement in the war: though all four grandparents lived through the war, they never spoke of it. In her late thirties, after twelve years in the US, Krug realizes that living abroad has only intensified her need to ask the questions she didn’t dare to as a child and young adult. Returning to Germany, she visits archives, conducts research, and interviews family members, uncovering in the process the stories of her maternal grandfather, a driving teacher in Karlsruhe during the war, and her father’s brother Franz-Karl, who died as a teenage SS soldier in Italy. Her extraordinary quest, spanning continents and generations, pieces together her family’s troubling story and reflects on what it means to be a German of her generation. Belonging wrestles with the idea of Heimat, the German word for the place that first forms us, where the sensibilities and identity of one generation pass on to the next. In this highly inventive visual memoir—equal parts graphic novel, family scrapbook, and investigative narrative—Nora Krug draws on letters, archival material, flea market finds, and photographs to attempt to understand what it means to belong to one’s country and one’s family. A wholly original record of a German woman’s struggle with the weight of catastrophic history, Belonging is also a reflection on the responsibility that we all have as inheritors of our countries’ pasts.

30 review for Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    I slowly began to accept that my knowledge will have limits, that I’ll never know exactly what Willi thought, what he saw or heard, what he decided to do or not to do, what he could have done and failed to do, and why. This is not an easy book to read. It's a graphic memoir of what it was like to grow up in a post-Hitler Germany. In Krug's childhood, the Holocaust looms in the background of everything but is rarely spoken about. The book looks at the collective shame of the German people-- a sh I slowly began to accept that my knowledge will have limits, that I’ll never know exactly what Willi thought, what he saw or heard, what he decided to do or not to do, what he could have done and failed to do, and why. This is not an easy book to read. It's a graphic memoir of what it was like to grow up in a post-Hitler Germany. In Krug's childhood, the Holocaust looms in the background of everything but is rarely spoken about. The book looks at the collective shame of the German people-- a shame drilled so deep that the word "heimat" or "homeland" brings no sense of pride; a shame that means hiding your accent to avoid provoking strong and painful emotions in those you meet. The mixed art is very powerful. Krug uses a scrapbook-style scattering of images, clippings and traditional comic strip art to first explore her own upbringing, and then later to delve into her family's past. There's nothing simple about this book at all. It's both an informative read for the non-German reader, and an emotional memoir. It's also a good little piece of investigative journalism, though nowhere near as dispassionate as that sounds. Krug finds herself asking the difficult questions that no one in her family seems willing to ask. She wants to know - she has to know - what role her grandparents played in the Nazi atrocities. For what reason? She's not sure. Perhaps to absolve them in her mind; perhaps to adequately blame them. Whatever the reasoning, I felt every bit of the author’s desperation to find out about her grandparents. I sat along as she dug into their history and hoped so very much that they weren’t guilty of the worst crimes. I, too, wanted it to not be them. I wanted them to have been the good guys. Ultimately, though, it's not that easy and Krug knows it all too well. Most Germans were complicit in some way; the true "good guys" didn't live to tell the tale. Despite an extensive investigation, many answers remain out of reach. Not a simple read, or fully satisfying, but thought-provoking nonetheless. CW: antisemitism; holocaust (disturbing images). Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    This is an unusual book, which somehow manages to be both lyrical and extremely matter-of-fact. Nora is German, and although she has lived most of her life in the US and was anyway born long after the events in question, she feels horrible guilt about what her country has done. Over six million people were cruelly murdered; surely a large part of the German population knew about it and in some way were involved. After a while, her initially unspecific feelings begin to crystallise out into a pre This is an unusual book, which somehow manages to be both lyrical and extremely matter-of-fact. Nora is German, and although she has lived most of her life in the US and was anyway born long after the events in question, she feels horrible guilt about what her country has done. Over six million people were cruelly murdered; surely a large part of the German population knew about it and in some way were involved. After a while, her initially unspecific feelings begin to crystallise out into a precise set of questions. What did her own relatives do during the Nazi period? Did they kill Jews? Did they concretely help Hitler's criminal regime? If so, in what ways? She starts investigating: talking to old German people, visiting archives to request files that haven't been viewed in decades, collecting postcards from flea markets and antique shops. After a several years of careful detective work, she discovers a surprising amount. The story of her persistent search is often quite moving. I found the book emotionally engaging in two different and opposing ways. On the one hand, my father's family is Jewish, and many of my relatives were killed by the Germans that Nora is tracking down. I read about the pathetically inadequate denazification programme, which I had not previously seen described in this detail, and I was outraged. Evidently, many, perhaps even most of the murderers got away clean. People stonewalled and used the classic tactics of omerta: they didn't know anything, they weren't there, they had no part in it, when they did it was only the bare minimum because they were forced to. They did their best to be assigned to the lowest category, that of "Follower": members of the Nazi state who had not done anything worse than go with the flow, because they were too scared and lacking in moral fibre to oppose it. Evidently, a large number of the Germans assigned to the "Follower" category had in fact done much more serious things, but because there was no straightforward way to prove it they escaped the consequences of their actions. Nora goes into the details of some cases. The electrician who claimed that he'd accidentally burned down the local synagogue while fixing a fuse box got his story to stick, even though everyone knew the fire was started intentionally. After the war, he founded a successful business which is still around. Nora sees one of their vans in the street when she visits. I was angry about the past, but as the book progressed a second feeling began to grow, a dread of the future. Politicians often talk about the judgement of history, and it's reassuring to imagine that this only applies to important public figures. But as we can see here, that isn't true. Nora, tracking things down half a century after the fact, cares passionately about what her grandfather did. Was he a member of the Nazi Party? If so, why did he join? What concrete part did he play in the persecution and eventual murder of most of the local Jews? Where was he when the critical events occurred? She manages to find plausible answers to several of these questions. So who in the future is watching me? What am I doing about the critical questions of our own time, some of which may have consequences just as horrible as the Shoah? Nora's grandfather has good practical reasons for wanting to join the Nazis. He doesn't like them much, but it makes life simpler. In general, it's almost always easier to be a Follower. At least for a while. You will gather that this book might make you think. If you don't like doing that, I definitely advise you to avoid it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)

    Can I give it an extra star?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    This would be a great companion read to Svetlana Alexievich's The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II. Both authors try to unearth and record the unspoken, suppressed truths of the WWII. The difference is that Russians were mandated to forget the ugly parts of the war to elevate the winners' narrative of heroism and bravery, and Germans - to hide their guilt and shame, not only from the others, but themselves and their families. Krug's journey to discover the extent of This would be a great companion read to Svetlana Alexievich's The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II. Both authors try to unearth and record the unspoken, suppressed truths of the WWII. The difference is that Russians were mandated to forget the ugly parts of the war to elevate the winners' narrative of heroism and bravery, and Germans - to hide their guilt and shame, not only from the others, but themselves and their families. Krug's journey to discover the extent of her family members' involvement in Nazi atrocities is revelatory, for me at least. I was surprised to learn just how extensive (but not always effective) the Allies investigation of, it seems, every German's crimes was. I was even more impressed by how deliberate and systematic is German's education of their own citizens of the crimes of the past. On the other hand, it made me wonder if it goes too far maybe. Krug's pain at inability to love any part of her homeland or being proud for anything German whatsoever is quite palpable. It's no surprise really that the nationalist movement is on the rise in Germany. Occasionally long-winded, but always thought-provoking.

  5. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    Started yesterday, finished this morning: this is the first adult picture book I've wanted to read, and as anticipated, I couldn't put it down. I suppose you could shelve this in some rather specific way. The 'my grandparents were Nazis' memoir shelf. Or the 'ordinary people in the period 1930-1950 in Nazi Germany' shelf. For me, I'd put it under 'everybody should read this'. It asks all the questions, without coming up with any answers. But keeping those questions on the tip of our collective to Started yesterday, finished this morning: this is the first adult picture book I've wanted to read, and as anticipated, I couldn't put it down. I suppose you could shelve this in some rather specific way. The 'my grandparents were Nazis' memoir shelf. Or the 'ordinary people in the period 1930-1950 in Nazi Germany' shelf. For me, I'd put it under 'everybody should read this'. It asks all the questions, without coming up with any answers. But keeping those questions on the tip of our collective tongue is vital to stopping such horror in the future. We need an autistic attitude, we have to feel that these things have just happened, and could happen any moment again. I do believe that the reason we are seeing the resurgence of the extreme right now is at least partly because our memory is slipping, too many feel like it's a past that isn't connected to the present. But it is. By blood, by education, by culture, by belief, by greed and by all the bad features of being a human which are after all, the reason why we created society in the first place. To try to hold them in check. Thank you Nora Krug, for your search for answers. It is your contribution to our never ending discussion about the meaning of life.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Templeton

    I am almost overwhelmed at the depth and intensity of this graphic memoir. My husband is a second generation German American, his father was born in Germany shortly before the end of WWII and his mother is of Jewish heritage. As a child, my husband wasn’t taught German and learned very little of his father’s family, never heard stories of the homeland. Reading this book felt like peeking behind an unspoken curtain into some inkling of my father-in-law’s thoughts. I was absolutely captivated both I am almost overwhelmed at the depth and intensity of this graphic memoir. My husband is a second generation German American, his father was born in Germany shortly before the end of WWII and his mother is of Jewish heritage. As a child, my husband wasn’t taught German and learned very little of his father’s family, never heard stories of the homeland. Reading this book felt like peeking behind an unspoken curtain into some inkling of my father-in-law’s thoughts. I was absolutely captivated both for Krug and myself. I will share this digital advanced copy with my husband and hope to build the courage to share a copy with my father-in-law after publication.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    In "The Germans" episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil is told not to mention the war, but he does, frequently, until the guest break out in tears. At the time, I thought it odd that the germans would be upset about it. As Basil said, they started it. I bring this up, because the author of this story, is one such German, who knows about the war, but it is not talked about, though her father's older brother fought and died in World War II. This memoir of how she doesn't feel that she has a home in her f In "The Germans" episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil is told not to mention the war, but he does, frequently, until the guest break out in tears. At the time, I thought it odd that the germans would be upset about it. As Basil said, they started it. I bring this up, because the author of this story, is one such German, who knows about the war, but it is not talked about, though her father's older brother fought and died in World War II. This memoir of how she doesn't feel that she has a home in her former homeland, and how she goes in search of what her family did in the war, and what happened to them. There has been a sense of guilt she has felt, from her homeland, and she finds it follows her abroad. It is an amazing book. When the Americans came and saw what had happened in the concentration camps, they forced the citizens to not only look on the dead, but to transport them and give them decent burials. And so, with this background, and the feeling of shame, the author goes in search of the uncle that died int he war, as well as her grandfather. She wants to know if her family really was evil. Did they support Hitler, of were they sheep, just followers. She goes and talks to relatives still living in Germany, and finds source documents, to find the story of those that came before her. It is a long and interesting journey, and one that is part speculation. But the depth that she goes to, in her search, is amazing. What a fanstastic, book, going into the heart and soul of the survivors. Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Belonging is an absolutely beautiful memoir full of questions about identity, family and homeland. Nora Krug was born and raised in Germany, in the shadow of World War II. Belonging is a deeply personal memoir about her struggles with German identity, coming to terms with her family history, and exploring the German idea of Heimat, or homeland. Her journey leads her to talking to Holocaust survivors in her new homeland of Brooklyn, traveling with her mother and father to Germany, meeting many un Belonging is an absolutely beautiful memoir full of questions about identity, family and homeland. Nora Krug was born and raised in Germany, in the shadow of World War II. Belonging is a deeply personal memoir about her struggles with German identity, coming to terms with her family history, and exploring the German idea of Heimat, or homeland. Her journey leads her to talking to Holocaust survivors in her new homeland of Brooklyn, traveling with her mother and father to Germany, meeting many unexpected people and gaining many new insights into her family's history and how it relates to history at large. The artistic style is stunning. The font chosen for the book looks hand written, and photographs and documents are interspersed with illustrations. This is such a deeply personal story, but I related to it on many levels. The search for identity, trying to learn about people in your past who have died long ago, and figuring out where is your homeland were all things I could relate to. Belonging is a masterpiece of a book, a book that makes the best use of a graphic novel format, and a memoir that should join classics like Persepolis or Maus. Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    (Note: I received an advanced reader's copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Between the real life photos and documents that are mixed with absolutely gorgeous art, and Nora Krug's meticulous documentation of her quest to unravel and understand her family's history, it's impossible to not feel like you were placed in the author's shoes and taken along for every single step of her journey. You will be unsettled by the same questions and worries that weigh on her, end up feeling the same thirst (Note: I received an advanced reader's copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Between the real life photos and documents that are mixed with absolutely gorgeous art, and Nora Krug's meticulous documentation of her quest to unravel and understand her family's history, it's impossible to not feel like you were placed in the author's shoes and taken along for every single step of her journey. You will be unsettled by the same questions and worries that weigh on her, end up feeling the same thirst for answers, and feel the same grapple of emotions that beset her with every new revelation about the past. It's an experience that you should not pass up, especially considering the present. With mass dehumanization of others on a fierce and continuing rise, Krug will do the much-needed favor of making you think of what it means to have a national past shaped by dark forces. One of the best books I've read this year.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bean

    Must write a detailed review later but I have many, many thoughts. - It seems the author's central motivator is ascertaining what amount of guilt and shame she feels (personally, ancestrally, culturally) is actually hers. Along the way, the actual suffering of Jewish people in WWII (including intergenerational suffering for their descendants, some of whom she interviews) becomes a backdrop. - The illustrations of anti-Semitism make me wonder, who is this book for? If this was a memoir of a Japane Must write a detailed review later but I have many, many thoughts. - It seems the author's central motivator is ascertaining what amount of guilt and shame she feels (personally, ancestrally, culturally) is actually hers. Along the way, the actual suffering of Jewish people in WWII (including intergenerational suffering for their descendants, some of whom she interviews) becomes a backdrop. - The illustrations of anti-Semitism make me wonder, who is this book for? If this was a memoir of a Japanese person, detailing their ancestors' involvement in the genocide/colonization of my indigenous Uchinanchu ancestors, I would be sickened by the displays I was reading. I would be traumatized by the photographs of my ancestors' dead bodies in the background of photographs that foreground their brutalizers. There are ways for someone in Krug’s position to share these realities respectfully, and I don’t feel that she does so. - The valuable questions that are raised by this memoir came afterward, from conversations with others. The author's questions seem to focus obsessively on how relieved or disappointed she feels, as she uncovers new information and sorts the truth from apologist family lore. - The art (mixed media collage and illustration) is undeniably powerful. The author's handles a complex web of family history deftly, despite its twists and turns. - I'm glad I read this, but was deeply disappointed by where the author's focus lay. I don't know how to recommend this to others, unless they were interested in reading a societally-powerful person's insufficient grappling with shame, or a meditation on collective shame that has little to do with meaningful reparation/accountability. I think this narrative meant to tease apart the crucial nuance between guilt and shame, but these aren’t thoughtfully explored — instead, Krug’s need to know just what her ancestors did or did not do overwhelms the stories, and is resolved only after barreling past a tremendous amount of trauma (those of Jewish folks, and also her dad’s obviously traumatic relationship with his sister). - Did anyone else think it was very inappropriate for her to join a group of German & Austrian Jews, in hopes that they will love her like a granddaughter?? I was shocked and grossed out.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Q

    Belonging by Nora Krug A German Reckons with History and Home. I haven’t rated this yet because I listened to it on audio and still waiting for the graphic novel from library to see the pics/artwork. Nora Krug was the narrator for the audiobook. I really appreciated hearing her voice. Her story. It was a great book. This is a book about a young German woman born a couple generations after WWII and working through her personal shame of being born German and the confusion of her families part durin Belonging by Nora Krug A German Reckons with History and Home. I haven’t rated this yet because I listened to it on audio and still waiting for the graphic novel from library to see the pics/artwork. Nora Krug was the narrator for the audiobook. I really appreciated hearing her voice. Her story. It was a great book. This is a book about a young German woman born a couple generations after WWII and working through her personal shame of being born German and the confusion of her families part during the war. It’s a experiential journalistic graphic autobiography. Am looking forward to experiencing her story now through her pictures. I have friends of German decent born right after the war who have gone through similar feelings and quandaries as Nora. Being German brought them much pain and suffering. Even though my German American friends were born in the USA they and their families were at times shunned and hated. And that did a number on them. The shame became personalized. As it did for Nora growing up. As Nora said the topic of Hitler and the holocaust was not talked about within her family. But yet it was everywhere. That silence made the shame grow like a fungus in the dark. Or like a red capped mushroom. A costume her mom wore once. Nora came to NYC as a student and stayed and married. Being away from Germany allowed her some space to follow her questions and explorations. The second person she met in NYC was a Holocaust survivor. Her description of this meeting was so well expressed. It brought her experience alive. It’s an honor to hear her giving her voice to her shame and her courage to look at history and her family and own life. And her honesty was such a gift to me. I understood the depth of pain felt because of my families history and what’s my friends have carried through their lives as universal and personal both. The dualism of right and wrong harms people. When we shut them out and make them other in the end we harm more then them. We end up harming ourselves and put that burden onto future generations like Nora. 2018 has offered us an immense diversity of voices. It’s just wonderful. Writing and reading is empowering to both giver and receiver. It has such potential for healing individual and collective hearts both. The courage to speak up and share ones truth and to listened to and be heard unites us. It helps us see beyond ourselves. To connect and to know also we are not alone. We inter-are. And this, I feel, is what Nora offered herself and some of her family and us both.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shelly

    Belonging by Nora Krug is a fantastic graphic memoir. It’s a personal story, one about her family, about Germany’s ugly Nazi history, and what it means to be German today. I highly recommend it and it’s so well done inside. Perfect blend of art and text. Just great.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Deanna (Deanna Reads Books)

    This review was originally posted on my review blog Deanna Reads Books This graphic memoir is a really deep and poignant look at one's self. It's a really heavy topic, but I found it awesome to experience Nora's journey of self-discovery cool to be done in the graphic medium. I also loved that it wasn't a typical graphic novel. The book was drawn as if written in a notebook, and there were even real photos put into it to make it feel more real. One page might have a real photo of her grandfather This review was originally posted on my review blog Deanna Reads Books This graphic memoir is a really deep and poignant look at one's self. It's a really heavy topic, but I found it awesome to experience Nora's journey of self-discovery cool to be done in the graphic medium. I also loved that it wasn't a typical graphic novel. The book was drawn as if written in a notebook, and there were even real photos put into it to make it feel more real. One page might have a real photo of her grandfather in a german uniform, and the next page was a little illustration of the people in the town. It kind of hit you with the truth suddenly. I do want to post a warning though, some of the images early on were a little too much to handle. We are dealing with WWII in Nazi Germany, so there are some horrific images there. So just be mindful of that if that could be a trigger, or just something you wouldn't want to see in a book. Nora's memoir is really fascinating to me, because it really looks at war and how it shapes a country. Does the war ever really leave a country? What the Nazis did was really truly terrible, and Nora has known that her entire life. She feels like she has been shamed so much by her country's past that to be patriotic in any shape is bad, and she doesn't really know where she belongs. I really felt for her when she mentions people would do the Hitler Salute to her in jest when they found out she was German. That was just so cruel. Since she feels this way, she decides to find out just what exactly her family did during the war. War shapes everyone it touches, even after it's been long gone. It changes a country, it changes a landscape, and in Nora's experience it feel like Germany is still dealing with what their ancestors did. It's hard to read about what happened in Germany to both the Jews and the Germany people. Nora sets out to really find the truth about what her family did in what seems like a way to absolve her of her guilt. I don't think in the end that isn't really the point of her doing this. She just wants to have the answers to all her questions. She just wants to know what really happened. It won't make her feel better, but it will make her understand her family and herself. I think the point of her story is really the journey, and not what she ends up finding. I feel like I can't say much more about this book without giving more of it away. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this one was a really in depth look at how history and culture can really affect a family for years. I'm really glad I read this one. *I received a free egalley copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    As a present day German-American woman, Nora Krug struggles with her birth country’s past and the guilt associated with WWII, the Holocaust, and Nazis. In this personal memoir, Krug seeks to find out her family’s involvement with the Nazis and to reconcile her sense of belonging and home, or “Heimat.” Krug writes and illustrates her memoir like a graphic novel or scrapbook. It is filled with drawings, old family photos, letters, and homework assignments. Much like a scrapbook, the book frequently As a present day German-American woman, Nora Krug struggles with her birth country’s past and the guilt associated with WWII, the Holocaust, and Nazis. In this personal memoir, Krug seeks to find out her family’s involvement with the Nazis and to reconcile her sense of belonging and home, or “Heimat.” Krug writes and illustrates her memoir like a graphic novel or scrapbook. It is filled with drawings, old family photos, letters, and homework assignments. Much like a scrapbook, the book frequently jumps back and forth from one family member to another. Although a fitting medium to convey her family’s history, the presentation kept me further removed from her story than engaging words typically do. At times, I was unclear how the relatives she referred to fit into her family tree. Krug researches both her mother’s and father’s families, specifically her maternal grandfather and her father’s brother. When I finished the book, I realized that the front and end-pieces depict her parents’ family trees, which may have helped me sort out who was who. I am a German-speaker, and I am drawn to the ideas of wrestling with Germany’s history and seeking to overcome shame; however, I personally felt that the writing style and form of the book prevented me from engaging with the purported objective.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    It's not popular to rate this only a 3, but I have to do it. The illustrations throughout were truly interesting and the best part of the book. I really liked that each page was it's own little surprise of images. The writing though... it dragged. It dragged for so long with little to come of it. You know those movies you watch where they just ramble through a day and there is no real 'story'? That's how this book felt. She has guilt, curiosity, and more guilt. Which is fine, but it was boring a It's not popular to rate this only a 3, but I have to do it. The illustrations throughout were truly interesting and the best part of the book. I really liked that each page was it's own little surprise of images. The writing though... it dragged. It dragged for so long with little to come of it. You know those movies you watch where they just ramble through a day and there is no real 'story'? That's how this book felt. She has guilt, curiosity, and more guilt. Which is fine, but it was boring and draining and not altogether very interesting. Just a meandering through very little of her history and very little of anything tangible and I felt unfulfilled at the end of it. I truly wanted to like this book, if not for the illustrations alone, but I just didn't enjoy it that much.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    A fascinating memoir of one woman's attempt to understand and connect with her own past, as well as the complicated past of Germany. It's well worth a read. I received access to this title via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Belinda Carvalho

    I read the edition that's called Heimat. 'Heimat' is a nuanced German word meaning not just home but also including notions of belonging, family and where you really come from. This book is marketed as a graphic novel in the same way that family memoirs such as Mouse and Persepolis are but I felt this book transcended this format and is some kind of an important historical document merged with beautiful modified personal family pictures and text (including war documents, copy books, lists). I di I read the edition that's called Heimat. 'Heimat' is a nuanced German word meaning not just home but also including notions of belonging, family and where you really come from. This book is marketed as a graphic novel in the same way that family memoirs such as Mouse and Persepolis are but I felt this book transcended this format and is some kind of an important historical document merged with beautiful modified personal family pictures and text (including war documents, copy books, lists). I didn't feel I read it, I experienced it, in the way that you do a museum exhibit, journey or a documentary (please make a documentary of this somebody!). Married to a Jewish man and living in a culturally Jewish part of Brooklyn, Nora Krug finds herself fixated on war guilt and finds herself charting the actions of maternal and paternal grandparents throughout World War 2. Her own family history is deeply hidden behind a wall of shame (as readers we realise that this is replicated throughout German society, it's not just her family) and 'Heimat' charts the journey as she peels back these complex layers of pain. This is her scrapbook, her way of trying to atone for a generation that she wasn't apart of but which has strongly shaped her. Krug is a very sensitive narrator, important for this topic but she is thorough and puts her near ancestors under a real microscope. She realises a 'homecoming ' of sorts when she reads old documents and letters pertaining to family members now passed and finds answers about the family's involvement in the Holocaust. There is the young perfect uncle who perished in the war, his death tore her father's family apart. Her mum's father Willi; was he an active or passive member of the Nazi party? What did her family do when the synagogue burned down in Karlsruhe? They must have been aware. Krug is obsessive in her zeal and it sometimes makes for uncomfortable , difficult reading. It is a book that everyone should read if they are to get a glimpse into modern German history and the German psyche. There are some lighter bits in the text, some chapters start with particularly German inventions such as plasters, super glue and things that she misses while living abroad. However there are many moments where you might need to have the tissues at hand, particularly those to do with her living family and the effects her research has on them. I didn't fully understand why modern Germans suffer from such bad war guilt but Heimat has made this so clear to me. What a powerful read!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    We all Search: for roots, meaning, answers, stories, purpose. Nora Krug’s Belonging is the author’s journey of making her way back to the German towns her parents and relatives are from and learning their stories. It’s about Searching, Finding her own way, figuring out Collective Guilt, following the bread crumbs, hoping they’ll lead her ‘home.’ This ‘graphic memoir’ engaged me from the moment I opened it. Mesmerizing, creative, dramatic. I’ve never seen anything like it. (That’s a compliment of We all Search: for roots, meaning, answers, stories, purpose. Nora Krug’s Belonging is the author’s journey of making her way back to the German towns her parents and relatives are from and learning their stories. It’s about Searching, Finding her own way, figuring out Collective Guilt, following the bread crumbs, hoping they’ll lead her ‘home.’ This ‘graphic memoir’ engaged me from the moment I opened it. Mesmerizing, creative, dramatic. I’ve never seen anything like it. (That’s a compliment of the highest order!) The first German thing from Krug’s notebook is Hansaplast, a bandage, the safest thing in the world. “It is the most tenacious bandage on the planet, and it hurts when you tear it off to look at your scar.” A metaphor for what’s to come. The heart opening in searching honesty. Krug’s Questioning becomes our questioning. We don’t talk about the war. My German immigrant grandparents came over after WWI and did not talk about it. The German host family I lived with for a year did not. Nor did my parents (too young to remember much detail.) We don’t talk about the war. I’m glad Krug searched for answers and shared them in this entrancing memoir ‘scrapbook.’ It makes me wonder how much I don’t know about my family. Simple powerful drawings with pencil-type color fill the book. Illustrated and photographed faces haunt, making the reader/ watcher pause. Handwritten script is neat, writing is strong, yet concise. School essays, photos, letters, German documents and collages from flea market finds add to the mood of Belonging. Krug dedicates the book: To my old family and my new family. Bonds form. Uhu glue is the final German thing Nora elaborates on. While incredibly strong, it cannot fill all the cracks. Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for granting access to an arc of this book for an honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hans

    This book really hits home for me. With the art-collage memoir, paging through the book is like discovering a lost treasure trove of German artifacts and German experiences--things known to me and things that ring true to stories told and retold. My father was a child in Germany during the war and lost his father (i.e. my Opa) in the war. While his mother, brother and sister remained in Germany, he emigrated to America during his 20s--a bit of random chance and an opportunity to work a trade that This book really hits home for me. With the art-collage memoir, paging through the book is like discovering a lost treasure trove of German artifacts and German experiences--things known to me and things that ring true to stories told and retold. My father was a child in Germany during the war and lost his father (i.e. my Opa) in the war. While his mother, brother and sister remained in Germany, he emigrated to America during his 20s--a bit of random chance and an opportunity to work a trade that he did not have connections for at home. As he made a home and family in the U.S., the connections to Germany were mainly through the mail or the occasional long-distance international call. There was the German Christmas package, a few English/German phrases ("Essen dein food" or "Sitzen sie bitte"), and the trimmings and trappings of German culture (e.g. tiny lederhosen for us kids, a love of the mountains and a weekend cabin getaway, German food, etc.). His brother and sister made a couple visits to the U.S., but with modest means, the first family trip back to Germany was 50 years after my father left home. There's more to say, but I'll boil this down to the analogy of my German experience being the equivalent of the contents of Time-Life Foods of the World volume The Cooking of Germany: traditional and kitschy and storybook and glossy and essentially a window into a world that has the colors turned up and the sounds turned down. In the past dozen years, I've had the chance to travel with my family and on my own back to Germany. Reconnecting and building connections to a family. I've been slowly breaking through the picture-book reality of what is faux-German and what is German. What is home, what is identity, what is the experience for family members born in the generations after the war. I hope to learn more.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Set in Karlsruhe, where my German ancestors happened to originate. Nora Krug felt an intense guilt-by-association, from what happened with the nazis. She tried to come to terms with this by digging into the WW-II activities of her grandparents. Not an easy thing to deal with, but she bravely and thoroughly collected the facts. How does someone resolve such a thing? Even though the events happened before you were born, what are you supposed to think, especially when your immediate heritage was dir Set in Karlsruhe, where my German ancestors happened to originate. Nora Krug felt an intense guilt-by-association, from what happened with the nazis. She tried to come to terms with this by digging into the WW-II activities of her grandparents. Not an easy thing to deal with, but she bravely and thoroughly collected the facts. How does someone resolve such a thing? Even though the events happened before you were born, what are you supposed to think, especially when your immediate heritage was directly involved? I've felt much the same sense of guilt, even though my family was removed by several generations. I know that, if I were a resident of Karlsruhe in the 1930's, I could not have done any better. In the end, Nora Krug had a documented set of facts and she did learn that her grandparents were not participants in the atrocities. That has to help, although the sense of guilt can remain. Zora Neale Hurston may have addressed this best in Dust Tracks on a Road: "Let us say for the sake of argument that I detest the institution of slavery and all that it implied, just as much as you do. You must admit that I had no more power to do anything about it in my unborn state than you had in yours. Why fix your eyes on me? I respectfully refer you to my ancestors, and bid you a good day.” Maybe that is all anyone can can do, regardless of the specific issues. Everyone came from their ancestors, all ancestors were people, too, and they led their lives as they saw fit. If they did good things, that is great. If they did bad things, that is not so outstanding. Either way, we are responsible for own actions, not theirs.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A German woman comes to terms with her country's past, while trying to determine the meaning of home.German people do not like to go around waving their country's flag or singing their country's national anthem, because they understand the negative connotation of German nationalism. They get that their country murdered many many innocent people. They get that many of their grandparents were culpable in the murdering of those many many people. Like many Germans, Nora Krug is afraid to research he A German woman comes to terms with her country's past, while trying to determine the meaning of home.German people do not like to go around waving their country's flag or singing their country's national anthem, because they understand the negative connotation of German nationalism. They get that their country murdered many many innocent people. They get that many of their grandparents were culpable in the murdering of those many many people. Like many Germans, Nora Krug is afraid to research her family's history. What would she do with a Nazi in her family? Does one rotten apple mean the whole tree is bad?Krug feels horrible guilt for her family's role (whatever that might have been) in her country's past. She has left Germany and is now a United States citizen-- so I now have to wonder-- what about being American? Where we still wave our flag and sing or National Anthem and god forbid anyone do anything BUT stand while the revered anthem is sung. Do Americans feel the same culpability in our own past that German's do? Do Americans think-- oh god, slavery! and the native americans! and jim crow! and immigrants!-- do we think of our country as tainted? Why do Americans still feel such a draw towards nationalism, and to what end.I can't help but think that Nora Krug wrote this as a warning against nationalism, but who knows... maybe that's just how I read it. I cried twice while reading this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Katz

    I’m not sure how to rate a book like this, what kinds of criteria to use. The author, a German expatriate married to a Jewish husband, has created a strikingly original work — a chimera — of enormous power, grace, and courage. Drawings, photographs, documents, and words are brought together in such a way as to capture the emotional complexity of her quest to discover her family’s lives (and, to a very real extent, the lives of other Germans) during the Nazi years, both before and during the war. I’m not sure how to rate a book like this, what kinds of criteria to use. The author, a German expatriate married to a Jewish husband, has created a strikingly original work — a chimera — of enormous power, grace, and courage. Drawings, photographs, documents, and words are brought together in such a way as to capture the emotional complexity of her quest to discover her family’s lives (and, to a very real extent, the lives of other Germans) during the Nazi years, both before and during the war. These grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins — Were they aware of what was going on? Did they choose to be oblivious? Were they participants? Bystanders, soldiers, opponents of the regime? Krug held nothing back in her search to understand, and she withholds nothing from the reader: not the anxiety, uncertainty, guilt, hope, sadness, and doubt. I can’t begin to understand how the mixture of text and illustration had such a profound effect on me. As I said, I don’t know what standards to use in rating the book. In the end, what I relied upon was how eager I was each day to pick up the book so I could resume where I left off. So I could share at a distance the extraordinary journey Nora Krug took.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Samuelson

    This was such a stunning book for me. “Stunning” in that it affected me in a way I did not expect. I have read lots of books about WWII—non-fiction, fiction, children’s & YA books, even a couple graphic novels/memoirs. Despite all that though, I had never given much thought to how that time period affects modern Germans. When I thought of post-war Germany at all it was mostly in relation to the Berlin Wall. With Nora as my guide, however, I began to understand the struggle that many Germans fa This was such a stunning book for me. “Stunning” in that it affected me in a way I did not expect. I have read lots of books about WWII—non-fiction, fiction, children’s & YA books, even a couple graphic novels/memoirs. Despite all that though, I had never given much thought to how that time period affects modern Germans. When I thought of post-war Germany at all it was mostly in relation to the Berlin Wall. With Nora as my guide, however, I began to understand the struggle that many Germans face in terms of WWII. It is national and cultural shame on a level I had never considered. Now living with her husband in New York, Nora sets out to understand her Heimat (which from what I can tell means “homeland”). Using original artwork, photographs, and historic documents, the book delves into Nora’s own family past—particularly the lives of her paternal uncle and maternal grandfather—as she tries to come to terms with her own feeling of guilt and shame over events that took place decades before she was born. The artwork is very striking and adds a lot to how the author shares her story. *I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cristina

    This graphic novel was on a list of best books somewhere so I requested the local library purchase it. I love them in part because they have never turned my requests down. It's about a thirty-something German woman living in NYC who feels guilt for her German roots and digs into her ancestry to figure out if she has Nazis in her family tree. I like the concept and she does a thorough job of shaking down all the family members who are still living, as well as records from her hometown archives. T This graphic novel was on a list of best books somewhere so I requested the local library purchase it. I love them in part because they have never turned my requests down. It's about a thirty-something German woman living in NYC who feels guilt for her German roots and digs into her ancestry to figure out if she has Nazis in her family tree. I like the concept and she does a thorough job of shaking down all the family members who are still living, as well as records from her hometown archives. The final takeaway isn't super conclusive, but the process is definitely therapeutic for her and some of her family. The illustrations aren't my favorite, but I do like what she does with found materials and the storytelling with imagery is very cool.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    This is an amazing book. In a patchwork, a scrapbook of handwritten text, drawings and cartoons, old postcards and photos, original documents from the 1930s and 1940s, Nora Krug pieces together what her "normal German family" never told her - namely, how they behaved during the Nazi period and immediately after the war. Producing this book involved meticulous detective work and unearthing all the things which were never spoken about, finding her way through the silences and the shame. This is a This is an amazing book. In a patchwork, a scrapbook of handwritten text, drawings and cartoons, old postcards and photos, original documents from the 1930s and 1940s, Nora Krug pieces together what her "normal German family" never told her - namely, how they behaved during the Nazi period and immediately after the war. Producing this book involved meticulous detective work and unearthing all the things which were never spoken about, finding her way through the silences and the shame. This is a story which must have been repeated thousands of times in German families as they come to terms with their recent history - this book gives us outsiders an insight into what that process must feel like.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa (splitreads)

    2.5. Belonging feels like an innovative and unconventional graphic memoir: Krug's pictures and mixed-media are worth looking through in my opinion. The first third of this book had me hooked - I was invested in learning about the author's family. As she attempted to gather stories and government files, I was waiting for the big reveals alongside her. But, for most of the book, there weren't reveals. Overall, I felt this was a scattered story... there just wasn't much information to keep me engag 2.5. Belonging feels like an innovative and unconventional graphic memoir: Krug's pictures and mixed-media are worth looking through in my opinion. The first third of this book had me hooked - I was invested in learning about the author's family. As she attempted to gather stories and government files, I was waiting for the big reveals alongside her. But, for most of the book, there weren't reveals. Overall, I felt this was a scattered story... there just wasn't much information to keep me engaged. It was hard to keep track of what was happening and who we were talking about. Mostly, we wallowed in (poetic) guilt and unanswered questions.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Abbey

    What a beautiful & sad book. I adore the artistic style that Krug used to tell her story - handwritten text, collaged photographs, old papers and new drawings help tell us about her families' lives in Germany during WWII. The images help the sad history become a little more palatable, making Nazi Germany only slightly less disturbing as Krug, and the reader, try to figure out just which side the family fell on in this dark time in history. Considering our current political climate here in the What a beautiful & sad book. I adore the artistic style that Krug used to tell her story - handwritten text, collaged photographs, old papers and new drawings help tell us about her families' lives in Germany during WWII. The images help the sad history become a little more palatable, making Nazi Germany only slightly less disturbing as Krug, and the reader, try to figure out just which side the family fell on in this dark time in history. Considering our current political climate here in the US, this book is a must read. Imagine your grandchildren looking back at your life hoping with all hope that you were on the right side of history.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Morris

    I don't think there are enough words to accurately describe how beautiful this graphic novel is. The mix of various diary entries, photographs, various illustrations, and excerpts from propaganda combine to pack an emotional punch. I can't recommend this memoir about growing up German after the horrors of the Nazis enough. This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A beautifully written memoir dealing with the struggle of growing up as a second generation German post WW2; outlining Krug's struggle to identify as a German national whilst fighting her own inherited guilt at the events of the Holocaust. A quick and moving read, enlightening to a different mentality and culture, Krug draws you into her search for answers that are lost in time; highlighted elegantly in a format reminiscent of a family scrapbook.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I thought this book was amazing, but it's hard to encapsulate my feelings on it. The author's journey of her feelings and thoughts on her country and her family's history are similarly ambivalent - she's horrified by the possibilities but continues to investigate what happened. As with many of the best histories, she acknowledges the unknowability of much of what she's asking. I enjoyed the mix of the personal and the "historical," as well as the artistic style throughout. I just wish the editio I thought this book was amazing, but it's hard to encapsulate my feelings on it. The author's journey of her feelings and thoughts on her country and her family's history are similarly ambivalent - she's horrified by the possibilities but continues to investigate what happened. As with many of the best histories, she acknowledges the unknowability of much of what she's asking. I enjoyed the mix of the personal and the "historical," as well as the artistic style throughout. I just wish the edition I read was titled "Heimet"! Having said all this, I do have a hard time recommending this book generally as there's a lot that I can imagine readers don't want to (re)visit, which the author herself seems to recognize as well. It's a hard history to revive, but I found it worth it.

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