New Acquisitions: Nein, Onkel

LinkNein, Onkel : snapshots from another front 1938-1945 / edited by Ed Jones and Timothy Prus. Published by Archive of Modern Conflict. ICP Library call no.: TR592.5. N45 2007

If there ever was a book that could make the case for humanity in German soldiers of World War Two, this would be the one.  But enough of that, most reviews I’ve read of this book say the same thing.

It is a beautiful cloth light-tan cloth bound book.  In terms of the photographic vernacular, this book is top notch.  The images are well curated, and well reproduced.  The paper they have printed on, is gorgeous.

It contains images of German soldiers generally fooling around, cross-dressing, playing with small animals, playing with children, drunk, and silly.  This might seem an insult to anyone who knows about the holocaust, and the horror of the German war machine.   For me, I’m reminded that anyone could commit similar crimes,  such as letting a fascist dictator come to power.  This book for me, is another social reminder that we are all the same.  (Yes, I’m going to make a gross generalization about humanity now.)

I experienced similar absurdity growing up in the alternative, punk, and hardcore punk scene of the late 90’s.  Let me tell you, people do stupid things, and young people (as we know) are under great social pressures to perform for each other.  People play jokes, sometimes they hurt each other.  I knew a person who, trying to rob a cab, killed the cab driver.  He is now in prison for life.  I also had heard about a contemporary of mine, who pulled peoples eyes out in fights.  When I met this person, he was the funniest in the group, cracking jokes, and he happened to be a very smart person.  I’m still confused about this years later.  One minute people are laughing, the next they are killing, there is a fine line between humor and horror.

The soldiers in the book are probably age 16 and up.  Having been in group situations, where in uniform, it is common that guys engage in acts that they usually would not.   I would assume this begins when a person puts on a uniform, feeling as if the group dynamic will protect them.  And in many cases it does.  Men want to fit in, whether they are age 5 or 55.  I don’t care what anyone says about being an independent person, everyone wants approval from their peers or people they look up to.  Sometimes this can lead to ridiculous behavior, sometimes brutality.

Id say that this book is hilarious, and I believe that it is about people’s sense of humor.  Of course, knowing historical context, what people know about the 3rd Reich runs deep.  I highly recommend it to everyone who would like a good laugh.

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-Garret Miller

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