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I think I told you about a book I’ve read by Melita Maschmann called Account Rendered; a dossier on my former self. Maschmann grew up in Germany and joined the BDM (the girls’ version of the Hitler Youth) eventually becoming one of its lead propagandists. She traveled around the Third Reich, working to organize the resettlement of “ethnic Germans” on expropriated Polish farms.

After the war, she realized what she had taken part in—though it took her longer than one might imagine–and this memoir was the result. It takes the form of a letter, addressed to her best school friend, a Jewish girl.

Maschmann wishes to explain ( not excuse) herself. She wants her friend to understand how an ordinary, normal German girl came to be a full and active member of a movement for social justice (that was the term they used), one that would eventually force her Jewish friend to emigrate from Germany to escape the Holocaust that murdered millions.

What is striking about Maschmann’s account — what I want to emphasize to you, my beloved Pepsi — is how sincerely she believed herself and the movement she was part of to be motivated by love. She thought she was helping the poor, and seeking justice for the oppressed…Maschmann imagined that the “excesses” of Kristallnacht, “provoked” by the murder of German by a Jew, was an aberration, the result of excess zeal on the part of a few. The Night of Broken Glass revealed nothing to her about the core values of National Socialism. She was offended at the thought that people might believe it should….

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