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Sample essay topic, essay writing: The Good German - 932 words
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'The Good German', by Joseph Kanon can be categorized by placement in avariety of genres, Thriller, Mystery, Historical Fiction, Love Story, and more.The work is certainly all of these, however I believe much more important is thestudy of twelve years of human behavior, presented within the context of eventsprimarily following the close of The European phase of World War Two. I don'tknow that any other conflict has generated more literature than the onesymbolized by the swastika, the word Holocaust, and the unprecedented CrimesAgainst Humanity Trials at Nuremberg. Superficially, the evil of the war isroutinely placed with great ease. Even at this level it is hard to take issue withplacing the blame on a man, the party he created, and the nation that joined thatparty, served in the SS, and made the crimes that took place possible. Whathappened when the fighting stopped, when the shooting war with The Axis ended,and the Cold War with The Soviet Union began? The latter had really begun priorto the first one ending.The shades of gray that dominated the conduct of The Allies immediatelyfollowing the end of hostilities, and the repercussions that would follow fordecades, is brilliantly set side by side with conduct during the war. Mr. Kanonnever minimizes any of the horror that took place; he questions none of theatrocities that were committed.
He does bring post-war reality to his tale thatcannot be said to match the actions of The Third Reich; he does howeverabsolutely portray conduct on all sides, which traditional history would rathermarginalize. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and while there were episodesof good versus evil, and events that were black and white, inconvenient shades ofgray were everywhere.Without exception all of the players in this book are guilty of some form ofaberrant behavior, which outside of the circumstance of war would never bequestioned as wrong. However when placed within the context of World WarTwo, which was unique for the range and intensity of the evil it spread, do thejudgments and answers remain so clear?A person is put on trial at war's end for collaborating with The Nazi SS; let us saythe person facilitated the capture of Jews for transportation to death camps. Thejury would probably not spend a great deal of time deliberating this example.Same example with a bit more detail, the person is a Jew who was given theoption of pointing out other Jews in exchange for their life and the lives of theirfamily. This offer comes after the ritual sadism of a SS interrogation. How manyfamily members would choose death for themselves and their family? Whatwould the readers of this book choose given the alternatives?It is true that Nuremberg placed on trial and executed or imprisoned what couldbe referred to as the, 'Marquis Players', of The Third Reich
Nice and neat,black and white. At war's end there were brilliant scientists that lead the world inrocketry, aircraft design, and a host of other sciences. If they had been placed ontrial persons like Werner Van Braun would not have been working for NASA, hevery likely would have been dead, or would have been in Spandau Prison. TheScenario that was viewed with more trepidation was these truly gifted mindswould spend years on Soviet soil advancing Soviet capabilities, and that was notviewed as a risk worth taking. The result was each country that could, rounded upas many of these scientists as possible, together with their papers and families, wegathered ours and brought them to the US.
Viewed as a strictly pragmatic choice,the decision to utilize these people with disregard for their wartime activities canbe defended with ease. The defense also requires that ethics, morality, humanity,call it what you will, must be tossed over the side like so much ballast on a sinkingship. The selective enforcement of justice and the contortions of logic that thesedecisions demand, are the core of this work. The presentation is little short ofbrilliant.Replace the word German in the title with person, and you are much closer to thecore of this book. Right and wrong is defined on a case-by-case basis, and isinfinitely fluid.
What Mr. Kanon has done is brought this conduct to bear onevery level. Twisted decisions are as much a part of personal relationships as theyare at the conference table at Potsdam. Deception is as routine between familymembers as it is with Stalin and whomever he speaks with. Every decision isreduced to only having to be justified for the moment it is contemplated. Oncemade, the past is shunted aside, and the future is clean.
This expediency is asflawed long-term as it is without justification when made. The love story aspect isriddled with deception, crime, and repugnance. Yet you will likely be hoping for ahappy ending for two of the participants. Take the same event out of the contextof post World War Two Berlin, and the sympathy dissolves.Joseph Kanon has written a remarkable book that deals with one of the darkestperiods of human behavior. He does this without rancor, without preaching,without offering only two colors to place each decision in.
To write such a worknot only pays tribute to the mind of the author, but also the adroitness with whichhe presents very real moral labyrinths. I found myself at once wishing this was apure scholarly history book, and at the same moments being pleased with thenovel form the author chose. His format allows for more dispassionate reasonedcontemplation because it is a novel, and not a heavily footnoted documentary.Either method would likely bring the reader to the same end, however Mr.Kanon's is much more user-friendly.
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