Cimmerian: A Novel of the Holocaust
The rotting soul of an SS guard lies bare in this harrowing odyssey through a concentration camp.
In the waning days of World War II, Peter, a 19-year-old German soldier of the Eastern Front, is relieved when his uncle wangles him a safer berth as a guard at a small “labor camp” in occupied Poland. He’s seen and caused plenty of carnage fighting Russians, but nothing prepares him for the camp, where trainloads of Jews, Poles and Gypsies–“material” to the Nazis–are shipped in ostensibly to quarry granite,but really for extermination. Through his eyes, Watkins sees a panorama of barbarism… Watkin’s meticulously researched depiction of these horrors is matter-of-fact but grimly evocative.”There was a shrieking inside the shower that sounded like wind in a tunnel,”he writes. Unbearable scenes of cruelty, mothers mourning or abandoning their children, prisoners killing each other over scraps of food or a last gasp of air:…Over the camp, like crematorium smoke, hangs the despair in knowing that every kindly human impulse amounts to nothing. As Peter struggles to retain a shred of decency, he becomes a revealing study in moral corruption. Although he considers himself better than his sadistic comrades–he beats and kills prisoners only when ordered–Peter flounders in ghastly ironies: …With chilling realism and shrewd psychological insight, Watkins captures the hellish glow of inhumanity willingly kept aflame by normalized evil.
A shocking, disturbingly believable portrait of the Final Solution and the depravity that enabled it.