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The Son and Heir (2014)

de Alexander Münninghoff

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3521273,856 (3.8)6
A prize-winning Dutch journalist's unsparing memoir of growing up amid the excesses, triumphs, and devastation of post-World War II Europe. What can a son say upon discovering that his father wore a Nazi uniform? Reporter Alexander Münninghoff was only four when he found this mortifying relic from his father's recent past in his attic. This shameful memento came to symbolize not only his father's tragically misguided allegiance but also a shattered marriage and ultimately the unconscionable separation of a mother and son. In this revelatory memoir, the author confronts his parents' complex past as he reconstructs the fortunes and disillusions of an entire family upheaved during the changes of twentieth-century Europe. The Münninghoffs were driven by greed, rebellion, and rage. An embattled dynasty, they were torn between the right and the wrong side of history. Their saga haunted Alexander's life for the next seventy years. Only in reconciling with them can this man find the courage to move forward as son and heir to the startling legacy of a flawed yet grand tradition.… (més)
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In this Dutch lawyer/journalist's memoir/biography, Mr. Münninghoff writes his family history in the years before and after World War II in Latvia, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. It's a tragic story, full of family secrets and petty (and not so petty) family divisions. It's a story with no heroes and plenty of misguided bad actors. When Münninghoff was four, he found an SS's officer's helmet in the attic and thus learned his father had been a German SS officer on the Eastern Front, who, while loving Russian people, hated the Bolsheviks and enlisted for that reason. The father (Franz) is a trainwreck, with many failings; his grandfather, Joan, was a self-righteous, rich, shrewd businessman who was supremely capable of negotiating his way through the complex political scene in Europe both before and after the war, who calls himself a Catholic but belittles, betrays, and beleaguers everyone around him on his ruthless quest for wealth. On a larger scale, the book chronicles the decline of the old Prussian, Russian, and Baltic aristocracies, political corruption, what we would call today Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, political corruption, and the economic and political realities of Europe from the 1930s forward. More personally, it also chronicles the story of a dysfunctional family, alcoholism, drug addiction, family feuds, exploitation, adultery, kidnapping, poverty, hippie communes, loneliness, suicide, and, somewhat, redemption. I learned that the English translation of this novel was published posthumously on August 1, 2020, three months after Münninghoff died. It's a difficult, interesting story, but rambling at times and full of long supposed "stories" (in quotes) told by family members, which seems impossible, as Münninghoff claimed to be recounting oral stories told to him in his youth or early adulthood. One suspects this future journalist was not sitting there with his reporter's notebook or a tape recorder at the time when these tales were told, so the quotes were somewhat off-putting, long, rambling, and generally not very credible, but they did convey the points he was trying to make. That is the biggest criticism I had; the other was that, largely because Münninghoff wrote this as a reporter, his descriptions of things that happened in his family seemed far too cold and detached. I was most fascinated learning about Franz's motivations for joining the SS. ( )
  bschweiger | Feb 4, 2024 |
Without know the WW2 history and European geography this would be a difficult book. Not very streamlined. Main character is very unlikable. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Oct 31, 2022 |
Der niederländische Autor Alexander Münninghoff, der Stammhalter, berichtet in diesem Memoir von der Geschichte seiner niederländisch-lettisch-russischen Kaufmanns-Familie, die, in Lettland zu Reichtum gekommen, im Zuge der Zwischenkriegs- & Weltkriegsereignisse und aufgrund ihrer Deutschen-Freundlichkeit & Kollaboration untergeht: traurig, tragisch und: lehrreich (don't play with the devil). ( )
  Burkhard_Schirdewahn | Oct 11, 2022 |
Het is een moeilijke opgave om objektief over je familie of jezelf te schrijven. Wat mij betreft bregt Alexander Munninghoff het er redelijk vanaf. Hij praat de daden van zijn vader en grootvader niet goed, maar probeert wel begrip op te brengen voor hun beweegredenen. Mijn enige bezwaar tegen dit boek is dat het te lang was doordat al het gesjoemel breedvoerig moest worden uitgelegd.
Munninghoff laat een interessante kant van de geschiedenis zien. ( )
  Marietje.Halbertsma | Jan 9, 2022 |
This is a memoir about how one European family navigated WWII and its aftermath. With a jaundiced eye, Alexander Münninghoff dispassionately chronicles the strange and often tragic behavior of his extended family. In the midst of war and devastation, they lived a privileged existence marred by greed, compromise, rebellion and duplicity.

His grandfather was a wealthy businessman who fled Latvia for the Netherlands following the Russian takeover. He was passionate about his religion, his Dutch heritage, and the future of his business dynasty. He was a clever businessman always on the lookout for the next big opportunity. With little regard for virtue, he used his many powerful connections to achieve personal and business goals.

His eldest son, Frans, was Alexander’s father. He clearly was a disappointment to his own father for embracing the Nazis and eschewing his Dutch heritage. Frans served in the SS and was wounded during the war. He disowned his wife and son and had an open affair with is best friend’s wife, producing a daughter from the liaison. Moreover, Frans was a total failure and a joke in business circles. His most redeeming quality seemed to have been an intense sense of loyalty to his wartime compatriot who eventually committed suicide and his drug-addicted illegitimate daughter.

Following his removal from the family home, Alexander lived with his mother for a short time until he was abducted on the orders of his grandfather who saw him as the heir to the family’s business. Alexander was returned to the family home in Voorburg, where he remained separated from his mother for the rest of his life. Münninghoff shows the tragic outcome of his separation from his mother with her much diminished state following the war.

The telling of the dark events in this memoir can be unsettling. Yet his descriptions of things he actually observed or experienced can be quite effective, especially his discovery of his father’s SS helmet and his own abduction. Despite an uneven narrative, Münninghoff generally seems to view the unusual behavior of his family with detachment and empathy. ( )
  ozzer | Aug 11, 2020 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Alexander Münninghoffautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Gehrman, KristenTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Taylor, JarrodDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Mijn eerste aanraking met de geheimen die mijn leven zouden gaan beheersen, was de vondst die ik op een verloren namiddag op de zolder van ons huis in Voorburg deed.
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A prize-winning Dutch journalist's unsparing memoir of growing up amid the excesses, triumphs, and devastation of post-World War II Europe. What can a son say upon discovering that his father wore a Nazi uniform? Reporter Alexander Münninghoff was only four when he found this mortifying relic from his father's recent past in his attic. This shameful memento came to symbolize not only his father's tragically misguided allegiance but also a shattered marriage and ultimately the unconscionable separation of a mother and son. In this revelatory memoir, the author confronts his parents' complex past as he reconstructs the fortunes and disillusions of an entire family upheaved during the changes of twentieth-century Europe. The Münninghoffs were driven by greed, rebellion, and rage. An embattled dynasty, they were torn between the right and the wrong side of history. Their saga haunted Alexander's life for the next seventy years. Only in reconciling with them can this man find the courage to move forward as son and heir to the startling legacy of a flawed yet grand tradition.

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