Hans Joachim Schädlich was born in 1935 in Reichenbach, and worked at the German Academy of Sciences in East Berlin before resettling in West Germany in 1977. Today, Schädlich once again lives in Berlin. He has received many accolades for his work, including the Heinrich Böll Prize, the Hans Sahl Prize, the Kleist Prize, the Schiller Memorial Prize, the Lessing Prize, the Bremen Literary Award and the Joseph Breitbach Prize.
One house, one family and the war
Built during the Gründerzeit era of the late 19th century, this picturesque villa sports a wrought-iron gate, a large fountain to one side of the driveway, an entrance flanked by two large chandeliers, the fairy-tale-like grounds are populated by roses and rhododendrons, a two-storey hall housing the main staircase, a salon, a gentleman’s room, dining room, lead glass windows, suites of rooms on the ground and first floors, parquet and tiled floors… Located in a small town in Vogtland, the villa has been inhabited since 1940 by Hans and Elisabeth Kramer, their four children and staff. But the family’s initial tranquillity is quickly interrupted when the family patriarch, a wool merchant and convinced Nazi, is appalled to discover the regime’s genocidal crimes and quickly loses faith in the government. Hans and his family are soon enveloped in the horrors of the war.
In his new book, Hans Joachim Schädlich focuses on the period between 1931 and 1950 spanning the end of the Weimar Republic and the beginnings of the GDR. With masterly concision Schädlich shows us how a family caught up in a storm of ideology and morality, madness and guilt experiences the pre-war era, the war years and finally the immediately post-war period. The story is written according to Schädlich’s motto that the most telling aspect of any story are the gaps it leaves. This leaves space for evocative images, moods and fictional elements based on thoroughly researched facts. In these pages the villa metamorphoses into an equation that balances and explicates the century’s biggest historical fault-lines.