The Witness House by Christiane Kohl
Nazis and Holocaust Survivors Sharing a Villa during the Nuremberg Trials

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Autumn 1945 saw the start of the Nuremberg trials, in which high ranking representatives of the Nazi government were called to account for their war crimes. In a curious yet fascinating twist, witnesses for the prosecution and the defense were housed together in a villa on the outskirts of town. In this so-called Witness House, perpetrators and victims confronted each other in a microcosm that reflected the events of the high court. Presiding over the affair was the beautiful Countess Ingeborg Kálnoky (a woman so blond and enticing that she was described as a Jean Harlowe look-alike) who took great pride in her ability to keep the household civil and the communal dinners pleasant.  A comedy of manners arose among the guests as the urge to continue battle was checked by a sudden and uncomfortable return to civilized life.
   The trial atmosphere extends to the small group in the villa.  Agitated victims confront and avoid perpetrators and sympathizers, and high-ranking officers in the German armed forces struggle to keep their composure. This highly explosive mixture is seasoned with vivid, often humorous, anecdotes of those who had basked in the glory of the inner circles of power. Christiane Kohl focuses on the guilty, the sympathizers, the undecided, and those who always manage to make themselves fit in.  The Witness House reveals the social structures that allowed a cruel and unjust regime to flourish and serves as a symbol of the blurred boundaries between accuser and accused that would come to form the basis of postwar Germany.

About Christiane Kohl

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Christiane Kohl has worked as a correspondent to the Cologne Express, a press officer for the Environment Ministry in Hessen, and, from 1988 to 1998, an editor with Der Spiegel. She worked for several years in Rome for Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung and is currently the newspaper’s correspondent for eastern Germany. Her book, Der Jude und Das Mädchen (2002), was the basis of Joseph Vilsmaier’s feature film Leo and Claire. She lives in Dresden. Anthea Bell is a freelance translator from German and French, specializing in fiction. She has won a number of translation awards in the UK, the USA, and Europe. Her translations includeW.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz (and other works by Sebald), a large selection of Stefan Zweig’s novellas and stories, and Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoir, The Pianist
Published October 12, 2010 by Other Press. 272 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Professional & Technical, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

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During the Nuremberg trials, a collection of key witnesses — including former Nazis and resistance fighters — lived together in a single house. In The Witness House, Christiane Kohl turns a potentially melodramatic historical moment into a moving and suspenseful portrait of reconciliation.

Nov 16 2010 | Read Full Review of The Witness House: Nazis and ...

The Washington Post

In 1945, a private home in small-town Germany became a temporary residence for one of the most disparate groups of house guests in history: a mix of former Nazi Party officials and Holocaust survivors.

Dec 03 2010 | Read Full Review of The Witness House: Nazis and ...

Huntington News

It sounds like an idea only the U.S. Army could come up with: Requisition a villa in Nuremberg, Germanyto house both witnesses and victims of Nazi war crimes, along with the accused perpetrators of the crimes, but, as Christiane Kohl writes in "The Witness House: Nazis and Holocaust Survivors Sha...

Nov 19 2011 | Read Full Review of The Witness House: Nazis and ...

ForeWord Reviews

The history of World War II is so rich in character and detail that fiction presented alongside often pales in comparison, and this is especially true for a story so nuanced and taut as Kohl presents in The Witness House.

Oct 28 2010 | Read Full Review of The Witness House: Nazis and ...

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