I recall the long solo journeys when I would think about my father: the Oberfeldarzt (Retired), the Reichsamtsleiter in the SS, the adjutant to Heinrich Himmler, the author of New Foundations for Racial Research, the man described by the chief prosecutor in the Eichmann trial as a 'desk murderer,' the man I knew: my father.
In 1979 Sigfrid Gauch published the groundbreaking Vaterspuren, (Traces of My Father), the first of the so-called father books about the relationships of postwar Germans with their parents. It inspired a new genre in German literature. Ever since, such writings have contributed greatly to Germany's ongoing struggle to overcome its own past.
This autobiographical novel is Gauch's attempt to come to terms with his father, Hermann Gauch, a physician who had joined the National Socialists in the 1920s, wrote six books of "race research" as a member of the SS, and to his dying day remained an unrepentant Nazi. The story alternates between the images of the elder Gauch's death and burial and the author's memories of childhood and adolescence.
Unlike many of the father books, however, Traces of My Father is less a political attack than a personal journey. Gauch, though honest about his father's monstrous actions and ideas, does not shirk their shared emotional bond. The result is a poignant attempt by a son to relive his father's notorious life and in doing so free himself from the man's influence.