“The child intuitively comprehends that although these stories are unreal, they are not untrue.”― Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, 1976.
“A vast army of ghosts, cripples and monsters inhabited my dream landscapes, where cities were burned and forests were mowed down by a hail of bombs.”
―Melita Maschmann, Account Rendered: A Dossier on my Former Self, 1964.
In 1933 when Melita Maschmann was fifteen years old, she secretly joined the girls’division of the Hitler Youth in a protest against her wealthy conservative parents. Her goal was to escape from her “childish narrow life,” and attach herself “to something that was great and fundamental.” For almost twenty years, she remained a committed, avowed Nazi supporter experiencing at times “overwhelming joy” as she worked in the press and propaganda sections during the 1930s and supervised the evictions of Polish farmers and the resettlement of ethnic Germans on their farms during the war years. By the end of the war, she exposed herself to danger expecting to die since she was unable to imagine “an existence robbed of the possibility an inner life.” Even after she spent three years in prison and underwent the compulsory de-Nazification program, she remained an unrepentant Nazi. Then over the next twelve years she underwent a profound transformation that culminated in her mea culpa memoir, Account Rendered, which attempted to understand not excuse “the wrong and even the evil steps I took.” It was the first time a former National Socialist publicly acknowledged that she had served “an inhuman political system” and admitted that she had not thought for herself. The vast majority, like the parents in the novella and film adaptation Lore, burned any incriminating documents. They regarded Maschmann’s memoir as a form of betrayal and never forgave her.
Lore (short for Hannelore), the central character of Rachel Seiffert’s “Lore,” one of three interlocking novellas in the 2001 The Dark Room, and Cate Shortland’s 2012 film, Lore, is about the same age as Maschmann was in 1933. The setting for the novella and the film is Bavaria in the spring of 1945. The girl of the title shepherds her four younger siblings that range from about twelve to a baby on a perilous trek through a ruined country under foreign occupation to reach the grandmother’s home outside of Hamburg several hundred kilometres away. The film might be understood as a latter-day Grimm tale: the mother warns Lore to stay from soldiers because they kill all the children. Like Maschmann, she too undergoes a psychological odyssey from Hitlerian delirium to the beginning of awareness about the truth of the Nazi horror, a process in which she is forced to confront the demons of Nazi indoctrination and its consequences. As a result of her harrowing ordeal, Maschmann was permanently scarred. We do not know of course the future of Lore but the evidence from other sources suggests that the offspring and descendants of powerful Nazi officials did experience lives fraught with guilt and shame. Some sought reparation by converting to Judaism.
|Cate Shortland's Lore (2012)|