My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I have been contemplating this book for a few days now and the review it deserves. Helga Bürster, as I learned from the afterword, has told the story of her grandparents.
That certainly has its individual value, but so many books and stories have been written about the personal fates of forced laborers in the countryside. I have also read those that depict such forbidden relationships, although rarely resulting in children and most of these relationships ended tragically…
So, is this one story so special, so different, or so worth telling? Is Bürster such a great writer that her story would particularly appeal to me or move me (or should it)?
The publisher writes:
“Helga Bürster tells wonderfully light yet deeply moving about how a fate endures over the decades, how silence about the past overshadows a family. She tells of four generations of strong women – and that it is never too late for reconciliation.”
Yes, Bürster writes lightly, but unfortunately not particularly impressively. No special insights can be derived from it:
“Johanne had never been a fan of urn burials. The pitiful remains that were lowered into the ground no longer had anything to do with the person. However, Leo had made her rethink with his simple sentences. So, she also concluded for herself:
“Yes. It is.”
So, this little book is easy and quick to read. However, the often repeated “Mazur silence” is elevated to something unique – but it’s not: in the young Federal Republic, there were many who remained silent, looked away, and wanted to sweep their own involvement or at least collaboration under the carpet for good reason. Others were ashamed and remained silent for that reason.
So, it was certainly already a collective silence that was revolted against, among other things, in the late ’60s – “Under the gowns, the mustiness of a thousand years” and the like.
But even individual silence, as practiced by the Mazur family, is nothing extraordinary – at least my generation still knows this silence, was the “recipient” of this silence. My grandmother (born 1901 in Bremen) also remained silent throughout her life because she was ashamed of not having done more (at least, according to eyewitnesses, she “remained decent”). Unlike Bürster, I never tried to break this silence and fill the glaring gaps with words. I regret that.
Luzie’s legacy is therefore relatively meager, and she herself does not contribute much to the clarification in the present. In the past, in the final years of the war, we accompany her, Jurek, her great love, her parents, and the village community to some extent, and here too, I read a lot that I knew, was familiar with, and had often read before.
Unfortunately, we don’t learn much about Jurek either – Johanne, Bürster’s alter ego, arrives too late: Jurek is already sinking into dementia and no longer knows how to report anything. Yes, as a reader, one roughly understands why Jurek left. Many questions – including why Luzie simply let him go – remain unanswered.
I understand that Bürster probably wanted to stay close to the “experienced truth” to counter the “Mazur silence” with a truth. Nevertheless, I believe it would have been very commendable to at least actively consider and tell a few answers within the framework of fictionalization. The story would have allowed it.
So it remains a brief glimpse into the Bürster family, a village near Bremen, and – to some extent – guilt and atonement. The story unfortunately did not move me or captivate me, as the publisher claims.
However, perhaps every generation must write against the inhumanity of National Socialism, against forgetting and for remembrance – against silence.
Perhaps “Luzie’s Legacy” will bear fruit for those who have not read many stories of this kind. It is undoubtedly to be wished for the story, the author, and this book.
Three out of five stars from me.