SS Major Erich Schweizer was a concentration camp inspector. Like many other war criminals who escaped capture after WWII, he lives in hiding, but Schweizer’s story is a little different—his circumstance uncommonly unique. On the eve of the Allied liberation of Camp Neuengamme in 1945 Nazi Germany, a gravely ill Schweizer is abandoned by his comrades in the camp. Desperate, his short-term escape plan, assuming the identity of an executed Jewish camp prisoner named Oszkar Böhmer becomes a long-term charade for survival over many decades.
Compounding the situation, he eventually settles in his prewar home city Heidelberg, Germany, in a small Jewish quarter of the city. He longs to be close to his wife and two young sons, knowing he can never physically have contact with them—it’s a lifelong prison sentence of its own. Reluctant imitation is the key in assimilation to avoid detection as he lives among a people he once pledged to exterminate. Schweizer’s eventual exposure arises from the past and from a derivation he never could have imagined.
Yesterday Mourning takes an introspective journey of the pre- and post-World War II life of a Nazi soldier turned imposter. Set entirely in Germany, Yesterday Mourning sheds light on the economic fear factors that catapulted Hitler’s rise as well as the systematic elimination of Jewish and political dissenters’ freedoms and rights from the context of a German family whose financial viability is reliant on its military serving family members. Full of secrets, twists and turns, the novel’s protagonist Erich Schweizer toes the line between family savior and eventual societal villain in this piece that eerily mirrors the changing tides of contemporary America’s political and economic landscape.