9] HISTORICAL CRIME FICTION:
This was an incredibly difficult category to choose because I have read so many excellent historical crime fiction books. But I finally after much deliberation made the choice of A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr, which I reviewed here for Euro Crime. You can read an interview with Philip Kerr and a discussion of the book here.
Bernie Gunther finds himself in Argentina in 1950 posing as an escaped Nazi war criminal. He considers the past:
I think something happened to Germany after the Great War. You could see it on the streets of Berlin. A callous indifference to human suffering. And, perhaps after all those demented, sometimes cannibalistic killers we had during the Weimar years, we ought to have seen it coming: the murder squads and the death factories.
Do we see today a certain extra brutality in the crimes we see reported in the media? Are we about to enter a period of depression which will destroy the middle class? Will some charismatic leader offer us easy answers to our problems allocating blame on to the "others"?
A Quiet Flame warns us over and over again about the dangers of following philosophies that put ideas above human beings. Towards the end of the book Bernie allocates the blame in a long moving passage that ends:
I blame the inflation and the Bauhaus and Dada and Max Reinhardt. I blame Himmler and Goering and Hitler and the SS and Weimar and the whores and the pimps.
But most of all I blame myself. I blame myself for doing nothing. Which was less than I ought to have done. Which was all that was required for Nazism to succeed. I put my survival ahead of all other considerations. That is self evident.
If I was truly innocent, then I'd be dead, Anna. And I'm not.