Publisher: Hats Off Books
Is it possible to write an historical fiction of the Holocaust that would not diminish its importance, but rather provide us with another route by which we approach it?
This is a question that first crossed my mind, when I started to read Matias B. Freese's The i Tetralogy.
As Freese states, and I tend to agree, the Holocaust is the single most important human event in world history. "It created a lens through which we can understand ourselves culturally, anthropologically, and sociologically."
However, if we express ourselves through fiction, can we truly grasp an inmate's desire to survive? Can we fully understand the inmate's statement, "Resistance is not survival-that is for civilian populations, who have all the clues and signals that they are still civilized. They can resist. Here, resistance is a sentence of death, a bereft wind that blows across the camp."
Is it possible to comprehend through the voices of fictional characters what primordial instinct made these beasts so passionately anti-Semitic, as they rationalize their actions by arguing that how and when they decide to kill or not cannot be understood by vermin.
After reading The i Tetralogy, I will admit that these and many more of my queries have been more than adequately addressed, as this book is a rarity-not only for its high caliber of writing, but for its painful questioning and insightful analysis of Nazi atrocities.
Many of the book's themes have been explored elsewhere, however, Freese's strength lies in mounting a very exhaustive and meticulous rendering into the psyches of all three of his fictional characters, no doubt in large part attributable to his skills as an analytically trained and insight-oriented psychotherapist.
Freese succinctly sums up the Tetralogy as being an inner dialogue about the most significant event in human history, as he sees it.
He succeeds in painting emotionally charged portraits of his three characters, which give the book real depth. We read about Conrad, the camp guard's son, who struggles to come to terms with himself, after learning of his father's appalling past; Gunther, the hideous camp guard who rationalizes with his dribble and psychobabble logic; the victim, who describes the Germans as creatures from hell, devising, cruel, and demonic tortures for the Jews.
Moreover, Freese's incendiary voice gives his readers a perceptive grasp of the enormity of the crimes and the bestiality of the Nazi regime, although I must admit that many of the horrific scenes would probably be regarded as overkill, and from time to time, I was forced to take a breather.
Most of us have trouble understanding how humans could perpetuate the heinous crimes committed during the Holocaust. Were Hitler's henchmen mad or inherently evil?
When you read the camp guard's self-analysis, you immediately become aware that he does not admit to feeling shame or remorse. Au contraire, he is very proud of his monstrous crimes, as he explains, "the Jew is to be processed. It is an assembly line. Consider it an industry, not a back-alley mugging."
What is most disturbing is that many of these sub-human creatures were able to blend into American society after the war, where they go unseen and unnoticed, as was the case of Gunther. Gunther fittingly sums it up when he asserts, "Good Americans are much like Good Germans: as long as I take care of my lawn, bag the cuttings neatly for garbage pickup, and replace the siding every decade or so and gladly hand out Halloween korn like Gabby Hayes, I'm one of the good guys."
The i Tetralogy is more than just another story about the Holocaust. It is a stark haunting portrait of a nation gone mad, and a reminder of the horrors that we sometimes take for granted and wish to sweep under the carpet.