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A Crime in the Family: A World War II Secret Buried in Silence--and My Search for the Truth

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In the spring of 1945, on the Austrian-Hungarian border, not far from the front lines of the advancing Red Army, Countess Margit Batthyany gave a party in her mansion. The war was almost over, and the German aristocrats and SS officers dancing and drinking knew it was lost. Late that night, they walked down to the village, where 180 enslaved Jewish laborers waited, made th In the spring of 1945, on the Austrian-Hungarian border, not far from the front lines of the advancing Red Army, Countess Margit Batthyany gave a party in her mansion. The war was almost over, and the German aristocrats and SS officers dancing and drinking knew it was lost. Late that night, they walked down to the village, where 180 enslaved Jewish laborers waited, made them strip naked, and shot them all, before returning to the bright lights of the party. It remained a secret for decades, until Sacha Batthyany, who remembered his great-aunt Margit only vaguely from his childhood as a stern, distant woman, began to ask questions about it. A Crime in the Family is Sacha Batthyany's memoir of confronting these questions, and of the answers he found. It is one of the last untold stories of Europe's nightmare century that witnessed not just the inhumanity of Auschwitz, the chaos of wartime Budapest, and the brutalities of Soviet occupation, but also the countless silent crimes of complicity and cover-up. In its wake are the damaged generations it left behind. Told partly through the surviving journals of others from the author's family and the vanished world of Hitler's heartland, A Crime in the Family is a moving and revelatory memoir, revealing barbarity and tragedy but also a measure of peace and reconciliation.


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In the spring of 1945, on the Austrian-Hungarian border, not far from the front lines of the advancing Red Army, Countess Margit Batthyany gave a party in her mansion. The war was almost over, and the German aristocrats and SS officers dancing and drinking knew it was lost. Late that night, they walked down to the village, where 180 enslaved Jewish laborers waited, made th In the spring of 1945, on the Austrian-Hungarian border, not far from the front lines of the advancing Red Army, Countess Margit Batthyany gave a party in her mansion. The war was almost over, and the German aristocrats and SS officers dancing and drinking knew it was lost. Late that night, they walked down to the village, where 180 enslaved Jewish laborers waited, made them strip naked, and shot them all, before returning to the bright lights of the party. It remained a secret for decades, until Sacha Batthyany, who remembered his great-aunt Margit only vaguely from his childhood as a stern, distant woman, began to ask questions about it. A Crime in the Family is Sacha Batthyany's memoir of confronting these questions, and of the answers he found. It is one of the last untold stories of Europe's nightmare century that witnessed not just the inhumanity of Auschwitz, the chaos of wartime Budapest, and the brutalities of Soviet occupation, but also the countless silent crimes of complicity and cover-up. In its wake are the damaged generations it left behind. Told partly through the surviving journals of others from the author's family and the vanished world of Hitler's heartland, A Crime in the Family is a moving and revelatory memoir, revealing barbarity and tragedy but also a measure of peace and reconciliation.

30 review for A Crime in the Family: A World War II Secret Buried in Silence--and My Search for the Truth

  1. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Author, Sacha Batthyany, comes from a famous, old, aristocratic Hungarian family. Although he was raised in Switzerland, he was aware that his ancestors included a former prime minister, a bishop and several Counts. His ancestors were influential and, although they had lost their fortune after the war, to locals of the village where his grandmother grew up, they were viewed with immense respect in a society which was virtually still feudal. So, when a colleague dropped an article on his desk fro Author, Sacha Batthyany, comes from a famous, old, aristocratic Hungarian family. Although he was raised in Switzerland, he was aware that his ancestors included a former prime minister, a bishop and several Counts. His ancestors were influential and, although they had lost their fortune after the war, to locals of the village where his grandmother grew up, they were viewed with immense respect in a society which was virtually still feudal. So, when a colleague dropped an article on his desk from a British newspaper with the headline, “The Hostess From Hell,” he was not prepared for the story which he read. The woman he had known as a child as the rather caustic, and intimidating, Aunt Margit (actually married to his grandfather’s brother) was allegedly involved in the mass killing of one hundred and eighty Jewish labourers. Not previously interested in family history, Sacha had become a journalist and so his immediate response was to question. He tried to discover what had happened in March 1945, at the very end of the war. How did a party, including several high ranking Nazi guests, result in mass murder? As well as this thread of the memoir, this is also the search for the author’s identity and of his relationship with his relatives, including his father. During, and after, the war, his family were both perpetrators and victims; they suffered and they were responsible for suffering. As the book progresses, the author has therapy and continues on his quest to discover his past, that of his family and his part in it. This is a very moving and emotional read. The author tells of trips taken with his father, to visit the place where his grandfather spent many years in a Russian gulag. He also tells the story of his grandmother and of a Jewish neighbour of hers, named Agnes. The two women had grown up in the same village; although while Maritta grew up with wealth and influence, Agnes lived with her parents and brother at the village shop. Agnes’s father would give Maritta and her sister a sweet to eat on their way home; he was kindly and generous. He was also Jewish. During this book we read some of the memoirs written down by Agnes and Maritta, whose pasts collide in a way which the author attempts to unravel and make sense of. I think this was an extremely interesting memoir and would be ideal for book groups. Batthyany looks at identity and asks many difficult questions about his past. How many Germans and Russians, he muses, of similar ages as his grandfather, led similar lives. How many were guards, soldiers, informants? How many were members of totalitarian systems and then went on to have normal lives and careers and left their past behind them? He also confronts his own feelings about what he feels about his relatives and how their actions impacted on his own life. Lastly, he looks at how easy it is to ‘stand up’ for things these days – people sign online petitions, they tweet and share stories online and interact with people who feel much as they do. However, he wonders how brave he personally would have been, had he been asked to risk his life, or that of his family, in order to do what he felt was right. In other words, he asks hard questions, of himself and his readers. I am glad I read this book and thought the author was extremely truthful and honest in writing it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kerri

    This was an interesting book that I wished had been a little more focused. I was fascinated by the crime that spurs his investigation. The author's Aunt, Countess Margit Batthyany, hosted a party in 1945, during which some of the guests left the party and shot 180 Jewish Labourers. However this isn't really the focus of the book -- yes, his aunt threw the party, but I was never certain to what extent she was involved in the crime, and while she doesn't seem like a good person, it was hard to kno This was an interesting book that I wished had been a little more focused. I was fascinated by the crime that spurs his investigation. The author's Aunt, Countess Margit Batthyany, hosted a party in 1945, during which some of the guests left the party and shot 180 Jewish Labourers. However this isn't really the focus of the book -- yes, his aunt threw the party, but I was never certain to what extent she was involved in the crime, and while she doesn't seem like a good person, it was hard to know whether or not she had been involved in anything criminal. Did she even know about the shooting? Her family never asked her about it, and by the time the author was investigating, she was dead. This particular family secret is soon replaced by the backstory of his grandmother, Maritta, her aristocratic family who went through undeniable upheaval, that still paled dramatically in comparison to the Jewish woman, Agnes, who we also follow. The parts with the two different journals taking turns were my favourite of the book, and were the sections that I found most informative. I realised that I have not read much about the gulags of Siberia. In the present day, I found I liked the parts where the author travelled with his father, where they tried to find answers, though sometimes I felt like he was dragging along a man who really wanted to leave things alone, and I wondered why he kept pushing it. At times it felt rather cruel. Quite a bit of time is spent on the author's psychoanalyst sessions. Occasionally I found they were worth the page time, but often I didn't care that much. Juxtaposed against the things he was investigating, I didn't quite grasp the issues he felt he had. What stopped it being too irritating is that he did seem to be aware of this, and he did make some good points, which perhaps the sessions helped him reach: "Was that what distinguished my generation from his and Petrov's? The fact that we have never experienced an outside foreign power changing everything, when there was nothing an individual could do about it? We lacked that experience, the recognition that we were powerless, not the centre of the world, and the experience of having to see judgment passed on us from the outside. Instead, we were experts on our own ego, we could discuss our personal relationships for nights on end, talk about our sexual preferences and our gluten allergies. Did we look in at ourselves too much, while they only looked out?" "These days we spend hours on Facebook and Twitter, supporting this or opposing that, sharing photos of bloodshed and clever analyses, linking to videos of shipwrecks with migrants drowning off Lampedusa, signing virtual petitions against female genital mutilation in South Sudan. But how would we act if these events moved from our computers to the streets outside? If the demands were made of us as human beings, not users of the media, if it were all physical instead of virtual? If it stank, hurt, was noisy, and we couldn't perceive the world through the restrained design of our Apple laptops. If there was war of the same kind as seventy years ago, wouldn't we all be fellow travellers? Of course not, the young with their trainers and their jute bags would protest. We've all learnt from the past. That couldn't happen to us. Couldn't it?" The only part of the book that I really couldn't get behind was the supposed conversations between past figures. He would give fictional exchanges, and every time he wrote, "She might have said" or something to that effect, I would think, "But she also might NOT have". I didn't feel like they added anything really, and I preferred when time was spent trying to find out facts. Still, I did get a lot out of this book, and think it was worth reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kinga

    The English title of this book is a tad misleading – yes, there was a suspicion that a serious crime was committed by one of the (now long dead) members of the author’s family, but the original title “What Do I Have to Do With It” seems more adequate. The author is presented with an article about his great aunt who supposedly organised a party during WWII where the main entertainment was shooting almost 200 Jews. Batthyany is rightly shocked and sets on a journey to find out whether the story is The English title of this book is a tad misleading – yes, there was a suspicion that a serious crime was committed by one of the (now long dead) members of the author’s family, but the original title “What Do I Have to Do With It” seems more adequate. The author is presented with an article about his great aunt who supposedly organised a party during WWII where the main entertainment was shooting almost 200 Jews. Batthyany is rightly shocked and sets on a journey to find out whether the story is true, and if it is, what it has to do with him. This is the premise that sells us the book but the author is unable to find any evidence of this story ever happening and quickly abandons it and devotes his time to investigate another episode, significantly less sensational. He goes off on various tangents, including some very self-indulgent ones – like his conversations with his therapist or an encounter with a Hungarian prostitute which leads him to have a very blah epiphany that some people have more serious problems than his mini identity crisis. The whole thing ends up being a typical chaotic mess that is so popular with editors right now, for some reason. A little bit memoir, a little bit reportage, a whole lot of confusion. The thing was not helped by a very bizarre narrator choice for this audiobook. A 30 year old Swiss journalist is narrated by someone who sounds like an 80 year old toff who does accents for any bit of dialogue done by any Eastern European but allows his British accent to shine in the main narration, even though Sacha Batthyany also has a foreign accent in English (I can attest to that as I heard him speak live in Warsaw a few years ago). There were bits of this book that I enjoyed – especially the ones that dealt with the difficulty of discussing troublesome episodes of your family history with the members of said family and I also did enjoy listening to Batthhyany at that Warsaw event I mentioned earlier. However, all in all this book did not live up to my expectations, I’m sad to report.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    "My relations had not tortured or shot anyone. They had simply watched and done nothing, they had stopped thinking, they had stopped existing as human beings although they knew what was going on. Is that, in Hannah Arendt's famous phrase, the banality of evil?" This is a very honest memoir as Batthyany goes in search of a family history, a sense of self and, possibly, a form of redemption and community. A journalist in Switzerland, he's shocked when a newspaper uncovers his Hungarian aristocratic "My relations had not tortured or shot anyone. They had simply watched and done nothing, they had stopped thinking, they had stopped existing as human beings although they knew what was going on. Is that, in Hannah Arendt's famous phrase, the banality of evil?" This is a very honest memoir as Batthyany goes in search of a family history, a sense of self and, possibly, a form of redemption and community. A journalist in Switzerland, he's shocked when a newspaper uncovers his Hungarian aristocratic family's links to a Nazi atrocity - but once he starts researching the events involving his great-aunt Margit, he uncovers another story, more complicated, of complicity, guilt and moral inertia. With diaries, invented playlets, emails and a more straightforward prose memoir, this explores questions of family trauma and how the past may still haunt the present. The story set in 1944 also resonates strongly at times with our own present, especially when Batthyany visits a 1920s transit camps used for Jews, Communists and, most recently, for African refugees being deported from Europe to war-torn homelands. A short book but one which is clear-eyed on the courage it takes to stand up against brutality and inhumanity in the real world. Review from an ARC from Amazon Vine

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lily S.

    5 brightly shining stars! Many years ago a nazi soldier killed a Jewish couple in the yard of a Hungarian aristocratic family. In the present Sacha Batthyány explores how his life is interconnected with the happenings of that afternoon using the diary of his grandmother. This book could have been a cold compilation of facts and it still would have been relevant and interesting. Instead Sacha's stream of consciousness style guides us into the deeper workings of the psyche and connects the past wi 5 brightly shining stars! Many years ago a nazi soldier killed a Jewish couple in the yard of a Hungarian aristocratic family. In the present Sacha Batthyány explores how his life is interconnected with the happenings of that afternoon using the diary of his grandmother. This book could have been a cold compilation of facts and it still would have been relevant and interesting. Instead Sacha's stream of consciousness style guides us into the deeper workings of the psyche and connects the past with the present with a great attention to detail. It's rare that someone dares to expose his vulnerable side to this extent in a book and I can't help but admire the strength and self reflection it requires. As I was reading his words it increasingly felt like I'm talking with a very close friend, and interestingly I thought multiple times that I'd like to have him as a friend. This is truly one of a kind.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Liviu

    the author, a second generation swiss Hungarian whose grandparents and teenage father fled Hungary after 1956 and whose great grandfather was one of the leading Hungarian aristocrats until the communist takeover, starts investigating a newspaper report about his German great aunt (sister in law of his grandfather from the billionaire thyssen steel family) being involved in the massacre of 180 Jews in march 1945 in Austria on her estate his investigation will lead him to find out a lot about his f the author, a second generation swiss Hungarian whose grandparents and teenage father fled Hungary after 1956 and whose great grandfather was one of the leading Hungarian aristocrats until the communist takeover, starts investigating a newspaper report about his German great aunt (sister in law of his grandfather from the billionaire thyssen steel family) being involved in the massacre of 180 Jews in march 1945 in Austria on her estate his investigation will lead him to find out a lot about his family including the crime of the title that took place on his ancestral estate in Hungary 1944 after the German occupation, visit lots of countries including the Siberian gulag where his grandfather spent 10 years etc very interesting book but for the self pitying musings of the author who are extremely annoying and stopped me from highly recommending this one

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marcus Hobson

    I enjoyed A Crime in the Family, but I can only give it three stars because for me the narrative didn't really flow. In essence we are jumping backwards and forwards across generations to understand a crime that happened in Hungary at the every end of the Second World War. As the Russian Red Army advances through Hungary, a party is held at an ancient castle which belonged to the author's ancestors. The Jews from the local village are rounded up on the night of the party and shot by members of th I enjoyed A Crime in the Family, but I can only give it three stars because for me the narrative didn't really flow. In essence we are jumping backwards and forwards across generations to understand a crime that happened in Hungary at the every end of the Second World War. As the Russian Red Army advances through Hungary, a party is held at an ancient castle which belonged to the author's ancestors. The Jews from the local village are rounded up on the night of the party and shot by members of the German army. The mass grave and all evidence of the crime remain hidden for many generations until the author begins to ask questions about his past. The book is a fascinating insight into the post war period when Hungary was engulfed under the tyranny of Communism. In the same way that the Germans stripped wealth, possessions and life from the Jews, after the War the State did the same to the landowners and aristocracy. Some emerged alive. Sacha Batthyany's book considers all these dark times and tries in various ways to recreate and make sense of what happened in the Spring of 1945. He looks into his great-aunt's diary, and talks to his own father as he tries to see where the blame may lie. The diaries are confused, often telling the same story over and over in slightly different ways until a satisfactory version is arrived at. There is guilt about the killing of the Mandls, a husband and wife who ran the village shop and were obviously well known to the Count and Countess. Records stated that they committed suicide, but the diary tells another story, that they were shot by a German officer. Batthyany traces the Mandl's descendants to Buenos Aires and visits them to talk about events in the past, correcting some of what they know and changing forever their understanding of their own history. I enjoyed what I learnt about Budapest and Hungary, but I think perhaps the real meat of the story was a little too thin. There are invented diaries from some of the war time characters and their different tales of survival, even surviving the concentration camps, and then there are trips with the author's father as they visit relics of the wartime camps, but on the whole the story feels a little too self obsessed. I know it is a journey of self-discovery but I'm not sure that we need to go on so many visits to the psycho analyst or delve too deeply into a random meeting with a prostitute on a train journey. All these things got in the way of full understanding the story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ionia

    In the way of memoirs, this one is an emotional roller coaster. There were things about this book that I liked and I felt like I learned something from reading it, but there were also times when I felt confused, particularly when delving into the writings left behind by the author's family members. I felt there was just too much going on from too many different sources for me to keep up. I suppose when it is your family and you can keep track of who is who it is easier to understand, but for the In the way of memoirs, this one is an emotional roller coaster. There were things about this book that I liked and I felt like I learned something from reading it, but there were also times when I felt confused, particularly when delving into the writings left behind by the author's family members. I felt there was just too much going on from too many different sources for me to keep up. I suppose when it is your family and you can keep track of who is who it is easier to understand, but for the standard reader, it might be a bit much. Still, this is definitely and interesting look at what one generation did and how it has affected future generations. This is a bleak book in some ways, but in the end perhaps there is some redemption. Either way, it was compelling and made me ask questions and that was a good thing. Recommended to those who enjoy history and want to know more about the Nazi era. This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gwen - Chew & Digest Books -

    This was interesting because it was part family history and part navel-gazing. The author goes to therapy questioning if trauma and evil are passed down via genes and to find out why he feels little or no connection to his country of birth. It starts with a coworker tossing a newspaper article onto his desk about his great aunt and her guests supposedly taking a break from a party to slaughter 180 Jews in WWII Hungary only to go back to the drinks and dancing. Now that would be shocking to anyon This was interesting because it was part family history and part navel-gazing. The author goes to therapy questioning if trauma and evil are passed down via genes and to find out why he feels little or no connection to his country of birth. It starts with a coworker tossing a newspaper article onto his desk about his great aunt and her guests supposedly taking a break from a party to slaughter 180 Jews in WWII Hungary only to go back to the drinks and dancing. Now that would be shocking to anyone and who wouldn't want to start investigating it's verity although it's hard for Betthyanay because the only one left in his family is his father who is less than communicative about the past, as many who lived through that time are. His grandfather had spent 10 of his formative years in the gulag of the Soviet Union, so it isn't like his father knew much about that side of his family anyway. However, his father did not honor his own mother's wishes to destroy her journals and never having read them, passes them onto his son as if the past means nothing to him, so "here you go." (Note: why did his dad, who didn't seem to care, not destroy the journals as asked if he didn't care and never looked at them? This question, never answered, intrigued me. I would have loved an enlightening conversation with his dad about that though I'm not sure that he even really knew.) To Be continued, my PC is being a wanker.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    This book confused me from the start. What should have been a heartwrenching historical horror story was told in a cold, detached way. It was very difficult to start the book...disjointed, introducing characters in a minimal way and describing too many places and times quicker than you could get them straight. Then It switched from being diaries of two women from Hungary, one Jewish and one Catholic--I had hoped it would get more interesting. The incident of the Jews being executed outside the C This book confused me from the start. What should have been a heartwrenching historical horror story was told in a cold, detached way. It was very difficult to start the book...disjointed, introducing characters in a minimal way and describing too many places and times quicker than you could get them straight. Then It switched from being diaries of two women from Hungary, one Jewish and one Catholic--I had hoped it would get more interesting. The incident of the Jews being executed outside the Catholic' woman's house was near the beginning and was told in an oddly detached manner. No one ever knows if the woman herself was involved. The presence of diaries gave me hope that it would get interesting but those petered out and the book seemed to become rambling monologues of what the grandson (searching for the truth of his ancestry) imagining what people may have said or felt. The therapy parts were boring and a waste of this young man's time and money. Anyway, I was disappointed and wouldn't really recommend it to anyone. Perhaps it is the problem of translation. The subject matter of the execution of almost 200 jews outside a party and a trip to Auschwitz really should have elicited an emotional response. It did not. I confess that I gave up on the book at about the 80% mark. Thanks to NetGalley for advanced read in exchange for review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Auntie H

    A lot of time and place shifting between author's trips, visits to his psychoanalyst, his grandmother's and Agnes' diaries plus the bits he imagines. What if the guy who shot the Mandl's (Agnes' parents) were to meet the Major from Siberia when both were in their late 70s and I'll give one of these characters the name of the next door neighbour of my youth?. I've come away with a vague idea of the chronology and the story which is not what I'd expect from what is in essence an autobiography - a A lot of time and place shifting between author's trips, visits to his psychoanalyst, his grandmother's and Agnes' diaries plus the bits he imagines. What if the guy who shot the Mandl's (Agnes' parents) were to meet the Major from Siberia when both were in their late 70s and I'll give one of these characters the name of the next door neighbour of my youth?. I've come away with a vague idea of the chronology and the story which is not what I'd expect from what is in essence an autobiography - a piecing together of the family history. The what ifs didn't really work for me. The diary entries (Agnes leaving for Budapest, ending up in Auschwitz and "leaving" just before end of the war and piecing together his grandmother' diary) were the most interesting best for me. Was the point of including his meeting with Linda (waitress/prostitute) on the train to Budapest and thenchance meeting in Zurich where he took her and friend for a kebab and regaled them with his story included so we know how obsessed he was with his history? Weird! Set in Switzerland where author was born and lives (Zürich), Hungary (father lives in Budapest, also Hungary during WW2 and Communism), Argentina (after the war Agnes went to Buenos Aires and Sacha visits her and her 2 daughters) plus Russia ( where his grandfather spent 10 years in Siberia as a POW. Lots of mentions of Switzerland in broadly 3 categories 1) Author's own lifetime in Environs of Zurich - growing up, recognition that his parents didn't feel they belonged, despite speaking Swiss German, reading the newspaper clipping that set him off on his 7 year search, visits to a psychoanalyst 2) suspicion that Margit was hiding 2 of the high ranking Nazis responsible for killing the 180 Jews in their villa in Lugano 3) his grandparents flight from Hungary in 1957 during the uprising and their stay with Ivan and Margit in the Lugano villa, reading of the trials of those involved in the uprising in the NZZ He chose his psychoanalyst on basis his father had smuggled Jews over the Swiss border to Marseilles

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    It's now 70 plus years since the end of WW2 and the horrors of war have been exposed. We now have the grandchildren of Holocaust victims writing their memoirs of how their generation - the third - have been affected by atrocities of the past. But it's not just the children and grandchildren of survivors writing, there are also books by descendants of the perpetrators (or those who feel they might be the kin to the guilty.) "A Crime in the Family", by Swiss journalist Sacha Batthyany, is a look a It's now 70 plus years since the end of WW2 and the horrors of war have been exposed. We now have the grandchildren of Holocaust victims writing their memoirs of how their generation - the third - have been affected by atrocities of the past. But it's not just the children and grandchildren of survivors writing, there are also books by descendants of the perpetrators (or those who feel they might be the kin to the guilty.) "A Crime in the Family", by Swiss journalist Sacha Batthyany, is a look at his family's history from 1940's to the present. It's a fairly confusing book for those who read it, but it is worth reading, by anyone with an interest and a basic knowledge of the times and places. Sacha Battyany - the son and grandson of Hungarian aristocracy who lost everything when the Communists took over in Hungary after the war - begins his book with the story of his great-aunt who was a Thyssen by birth and a Battyany by marriage. Near the end of the war - March, 1945 - she gave a party at her castle residence, where, seemingly as part of the entertainment, 180 Jews were shot and buried in the courtyard by the guests. Was that the crime Sacha refers to? Well, no, it was actually the murder - by gunshots - of two Jews who were gunned down in his grandmother's father's castle, sometime after the Germans had invaded Hungary in the summer of 1944. These murdered Jews, the Mandls, were the local shopkeepers in the neighborhood and their children had just been put on the train to a way station and then to Auschwitz. They had come to the count to plead with him to get their two children off the transport. He refused and German officers shot them. Their daughter was a friend to Sacha's grandmother. According to diaries found after the grandmother's death, she had traveled to the Kistarcsa way-station to see the Mandl's daughter before she was sent to Auschwitz. (Agnes Mandl survived Auschwitz and made a life and a family post-war in Argentina.) Okay, so what is Sacha Batthyany's book really about? Sacha was raised in Switzerland but his divorced parents both had ties to Hungary and the family went back and forth fairly often. His father's own father - the husband of the young woman who may - or may not have tried to help the Mandls - was sentenced from 1945 to 1955 in the Soviet Gulag system and returned to Hungary a fairly broken man. Sacha takes his grandparents' stories, adds in the one about his great-aunt and her rather unique dinner-party "entertainment" - and tries to understand from whence and whom he came. The result is a bit of a mess - it probably reads better in the original German - even though it was translated to English by the phenomenal Anthea Bell. Another book on the same subject, but less confusing, is "A Guest at the Shooter's Banquet", by Rita Gabis.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

    I liked the idea of this book A LOT! I find this event in time so fascinating. Ever since reading Anne Franks diary as a teenager holocaust stories have troubled me and touched me as it has no doubt millions of others. Additionally I am a bit of a family history girl and find it so important to consider how the lives and decisions of our forefathers continue to touch our present day lives. So this book had the perfect premise for me. However I did find it a bit lacking. Maybe it was the translation b I liked the idea of this book A LOT! I find this event in time so fascinating. Ever since reading Anne Franks diary as a teenager holocaust stories have troubled me and touched me as it has no doubt millions of others. Additionally I am a bit of a family history girl and find it so important to consider how the lives and decisions of our forefathers continue to touch our present day lives. So this book had the perfect premise for me. However I did find it a bit lacking. Maybe it was the translation but the story was told in a bit of a muddle and bit here and there and then back again! It was not so fluid to my way of thinking. Maybe the journalistic style mixing with a personal memoir slant muddied the waters. Ultimately it didn't go deep enough into the core of how the author is affected by the events of 70 years ago, there was only loose references to a troubled father son relationship and we never really found out what came out of his psychoanalysis. A rather vague conclusion about human weaknesses being in us all, didn't really cut it! I just wanted more!! I can totally understand why the truth was never revealed to Agnes and ultimately it was her daughters' wish but why publish the book then?! The biggest irritation with this for me, is in the end is that he is reliving the pattern of his past generations! I am sure the irony is not lost on the author that he too has now stood by and not spoke up about the truth just as his grandmother did! All-be-it at the insistence of a third party, but that was ALSO the case during the wartime. He is quite critical of his relatives lack of substance in speaking up BUT they were dangerous times, and yet here he is not telling the truth in peacetime! I think that this could have been explored more; the repetition of patterns of behaviour that maybe can not be broken generation after generation. But it is an important story and certainly gets one thinking about how history can impact a modern life. Despite my criticisms it's definitely worth a read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book was not what I thought it was. I thought that the story was going to be focused on the crime that took place with Aunt Margit and her involvement of the massacre of 188 Jews. Instead the book goes more into the authors( Sacha Bratthyany) self personal reflections and the history of his parents and grandparents. I can't help but think that certain events were used to hype up the book. I was very close to dnfing the book, but I did find the history with his parents and grandparents inter This book was not what I thought it was. I thought that the story was going to be focused on the crime that took place with Aunt Margit and her involvement of the massacre of 188 Jews. Instead the book goes more into the authors( Sacha Bratthyany) self personal reflections and the history of his parents and grandparents. I can't help but think that certain events were used to hype up the book. I was very close to dnfing the book, but I did find the history with his parents and grandparents interesting, that's why I continued on. I just wish that he had a glossary of names. It took to almost the end of the book to finally to know who everyone was. I also thought diary entries that were in the book could have been placed better. Some of the spots where they were located were inappropriate and just made everything confusing. I hate to say this, but some of the authors own personal reflections were not making a bit of sense. Like the whole thing with the Prostitute that he had met? I was completely lost on that. Then in his own self reflections he would " what if it happened this way?" which irritated me, because I was not sure what was true and what he was making up?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bob H

    The author, whose aristocratic family had fled Hungary after WWII, now embarks on a journey to retrace a family mystery: did her great-aunt Margit take part in the murder of 180 Jewish laborers at the war's end? The book is his story, his account of his research in the family diaries, his travels to the site of the family mansion. Along the way he also becomes interested in Agnes, whose Jewish family had known the author's family and lived in their town and who was a young girl when she and her b The author, whose aristocratic family had fled Hungary after WWII, now embarks on a journey to retrace a family mystery: did her great-aunt Margit take part in the murder of 180 Jewish laborers at the war's end? The book is his story, his account of his research in the family diaries, his travels to the site of the family mansion. Along the way he also becomes interested in Agnes, whose Jewish family had known the author's family and lived in their town and who was a young girl when she and her brother were shipped to Auschwitz. She survived; the brother didn't; and her parents had died of suicide in their home town -- or did they? He also learns of his grandfather's WWII service in the Hungarian army, and subsequent years as a prisoner in a Soviet gulag, and seeks the official record and any witnesses. He tells the story mostly first-person, as he tracks these mysteries, though he interweaves the witness accounts and diary entries into his book. It's a haunting story, told in a thoughtful way. The English translation is clear and evocative and this adds another narrative to the Holocaust in that part of Europe.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amberly

    I was really excited to read this one. I expected more of the book to focus on finding out the details of the crime committed by the author's great aunt. Maybe some time spent on identifying those who were murdered, their families, etc. That is not what you get with this tale. That story is the impetus for the journey the author takes over many years to learn more about his family. The focus quickly moves from the great aunt to other family members experiences. However, the telling of the tale i I was really excited to read this one. I expected more of the book to focus on finding out the details of the crime committed by the author's great aunt. Maybe some time spent on identifying those who were murdered, their families, etc. That is not what you get with this tale. That story is the impetus for the journey the author takes over many years to learn more about his family. The focus quickly moves from the great aunt to other family members experiences. However, the telling of the tale is all about the author and how he responds to what he learns, what he does next, what the past means for him personally. It's pretty self-indulgent. As a genealogist, I was hoping for more in the way of research and cool discoveries through records. Again, you don't get that. If you are interested in the story that the book is based on, just read the book description and you have got most of the details you are going to get. FYI - there are two completely unnecessary (as in, no connection to anyone in the story but the author) bits involving a prostitute that come out of nowhere and are too graphic.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alisa

    The massacre of 180 Jews in Rachnitz is just a footnote here, the catalyst for the author to examine his family's history in detail and write a book about it. His story jumps haphazardly from one person/one story to the next: the diaries of his grandmother and a Jewish girl who lived close by, then the story of his grandfather, the story of how the family was forced to lead Communist-run Hungary, and the story of the author himself who feels the need to psycho-analyze his family's history and hi The massacre of 180 Jews in Rachnitz is just a footnote here, the catalyst for the author to examine his family's history in detail and write a book about it. His story jumps haphazardly from one person/one story to the next: the diaries of his grandmother and a Jewish girl who lived close by, then the story of his grandfather, the story of how the family was forced to lead Communist-run Hungary, and the story of the author himself who feels the need to psycho-analyze his family's history and himself. While these are all very interesting historical events which I usually enjoy reading about, the various threads in this book are all just too much and too confusing for me. I am almost at the halfway mark but I'm afraid I don't have the patience to continue; I'm just past caring whether it will pick up in the second half so, even though I hate doing this, I'm going to have to put this book under the "did not finish" category.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The subject matter is deeply disturbing, which made it a difficult read. The chapters consisting of diary entries are wonderful (though at times I wondered how it was possible that both young women were able to maintain technically proficient contemporaneous journals/memoirs under challenging and extreme conditions). The chapters where the author describes his interactions with his therapist are bizarre and indulgent. Not entirely certain how I feel about the book.Some of it feels so fantastic th The subject matter is deeply disturbing, which made it a difficult read. The chapters consisting of diary entries are wonderful (though at times I wondered how it was possible that both young women were able to maintain technically proficient contemporaneous journals/memoirs under challenging and extreme conditions). The chapters where the author describes his interactions with his therapist are bizarre and indulgent. Not entirely certain how I feel about the book.Some of it feels so fantastic that I wonder if it will, like certain other recent memoirs, eventually be outed as fiction. Still, it does keep your interest. I feel it’s a worthy read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    John Reid

    Someone gives you a newspaper clipping that alleges a relative is guilty, by association, in a heinous crime, a multiple murder. When you begin to investigate, there appears to be at least superficial evidence to support the allegation. What do you do? Do you accept the mounting evidence that exists and continue to investigate, or do you brush it under the carpet and hope it goes away, much as your family seems to have done over the years since the occurrence? A book I finished tonight kept takin Someone gives you a newspaper clipping that alleges a relative is guilty, by association, in a heinous crime, a multiple murder. When you begin to investigate, there appears to be at least superficial evidence to support the allegation. What do you do? Do you accept the mounting evidence that exists and continue to investigate, or do you brush it under the carpet and hope it goes away, much as your family seems to have done over the years since the occurrence? A book I finished tonight kept taking me back to my high school years. Why is it that A Crime In The Family by Sacha Batthyány, a book bought casually, should draw my mind back greater than six decades? For a number of reasons: • It deals with a subject on which I have read extensively. • I saw it listed in an online promotion, with the author’s name leaping off the page at me. • The author’s family, Batthyány, has a history dating back centuries in Hungarian culture, including counts, princes and bishops; one member has even been beatified in recent years. • The publisher’s blurb indicated a member of family was involved in an unutterably hideous multi murder towards the end of World War Two. • The relative concerned was an aunt by marriage, a millionairess of Thyssen extraction. On reading, A Crime In The Family proved irrestible, an epithet rarely, if ever, applied to my school books. To put it simply, I believe if I’d found my history books anywhere near as interesting, I’d have whizzed through another subject even beyond my favourites, maths, physics and English. It is that good a read. Where the story starts is with Sacha Batthyány at his job as a journalist in Zurich. A member of staff walks by and drops a news cutting on his desk, asking casually if the story in the item has anything to do with his family. Sacha completes the item on which he is working and then picks up the cutting. In it, he reads of a party held in a castle at Rechnitz on the Austrian-Hungarian border in 1945. During an evening of wining, dining and dancing, several German officials and SS officers slip away and, ‘for fun’, shoot 180 Jewish prisoners. They strip the victims naked and make them dig an L-shaped trench, a mass grave. Leader of the murderous group is Hans-Joachim Oldenburg, whose lover was Countess Margit Batthyány, the author’s great aunt. Following the shooting, Oldenburg and the others return to the party and spend the night carousing. Margit decided it more than time to liberate and consume some of the wine from their extensive cellar because, once the Russians arrive, it will be lost. The Germans knew at the time their war was over. They faced continually heavier losses in the west while the Russians continued an obdurate advance from the east. The Countess was a Nazi sympathiser and, although married to Sacha’s grand-uncle, present on the night but perhaps not directly involved in the atrocity, had at least two high-ranking German officials, including Oldenburg, as lovers. In the small hours of the morning, following his murderous adventure, the latter returned to dance with his mistress. Sacha begins a journey of discovery that takes him to many locations including the site of a Russian prison camp in the Urals where his grandfather was held in captivity for ten years; to Buenos Aires to interview Agnes, an elderly Jewish woman who had once been a playmate of his Catholic grandmother, Maritta, both of whom were incarcerated, for different reasons, late in the war; several returns to the town of Rechnitz, even though the schloss was destroyed soon after the war; and to visit and speak with the many other people who either remained alive or who could provide documentation. Despite being translated from the author’s German (sympathetically, as this can be the death-knell for many a book, the sense of which loses syntax in the language change), the story remains utterly readable and of great interest. In great part, this is due to the variations in its layout. Most of the story is told in the usual narrative style, but also includes excerpts from the diaries of Agnes and Maritta. These are of especial interest as they tell of the women’s experiences before, during and after the war. In one passage, Maritta records, “…my childhood lay buried under the rubble… Lost and gone forever. Around a bend in the road,” but it might equally well relate to Agnes. Interestingly, two sections are set out almost as pages of a script for a play (even if the author’s notes are far beyond what any producer in my experience would tolerate!) that create a change of pace while generating their own weight. Sacha Batthyány has done what I’d like to think each of us would do in in similar circumstances, thoroughly researched an issue even though it could devastate his family. As he said to his father who, like others, knew but never asked questions, “The money kept you all quiet. (The millionairess) Aunt Margit paid, so she had power. She decided what would be mentioned and what wouldn’t. Aunt Margit had you all in the palm of her hand.” A Crime In The Family is a first rate read. It is a search for sense, for family, for reason and for identity, mainly personal but also, it seems, national. Totally engrossing. __________ Nothing to do with the book, however, as I end this review, I can hear on ABC Classic FM the brilliant young cellist Luka Sulic playing Czardas. It seems somehow fitting!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Linda Spyhalski

    A memoir of brutality, heroism, and personal discovery from Europe's dark heart, revealing one of the most extraordinary untold stories of World War II. Wow, a touching book about the search of family history, good, bad or otherwise, and accepting the truth when you find it. After finding the truth you must learn how to live with it and move on! A memoir of brutality, heroism, and personal discovery from Europe's dark heart, revealing one of the most extraordinary untold stories of World War II. Wow, a touching book about the search of family history, good, bad or otherwise, and accepting the truth when you find it. After finding the truth you must learn how to live with it and move on!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    The author is a journalist, born in Switzerland to Hungarian emigre parents. He had heard (horror) stories of a great-aunt-by marriage and her actions during the Nazi occupation of Austria/Hungaria. He did extensive research, using his mother's diary, and this book is the result. The author is a journalist, born in Switzerland to Hungarian emigre parents. He had heard (horror) stories of a great-aunt-by marriage and her actions during the Nazi occupation of Austria/Hungaria. He did extensive research, using his mother's diary, and this book is the result.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carmen Agustin

    I loved this book, my favorite part was the diary excerpts from both the author's grandmother and her Jewish neighbor during that time and what they experienced during the second world war. I loved this book, my favorite part was the diary excerpts from both the author's grandmother and her Jewish neighbor during that time and what they experienced during the second world war.

  23. 5 out of 5

    ck

    Advance copy courtesy Da Capo Press via the Amazon Vine program With "A Crime in the Family," Sacha Batthyany tackles the topic of personal choice and the ripples our actions create for ourselves, those around us, and sometimes for people in generations to come. His grandparents have made it through World War II, and make a home for themselves in Switzerland after the war. The fundamental shifts in their lives between their prewar youth and their postwar realities occupy a distant haze on the frin Advance copy courtesy Da Capo Press via the Amazon Vine program With "A Crime in the Family," Sacha Batthyany tackles the topic of personal choice and the ripples our actions create for ourselves, those around us, and sometimes for people in generations to come. His grandparents have made it through World War II, and make a home for themselves in Switzerland after the war. The fundamental shifts in their lives between their prewar youth and their postwar realities occupy a distant haze on the fringe of their grandson's awareness. And then, one day, a crack appears in that relatively smooth facade. A news story involving the bringing to light of massacre in the spring of 1945 prompts questions about the involvement of the wife of the author's great-uncle. And so the ripples reawaken and the questions begin. In the course of ferreting out answers, Sacha Batthyany unearths other relationships, other questions, and eventually additional answers. While parts of this book are a linear narrative, the author challenges both his readers and himself with multiple calls to question answers, motivations, and even the process a person goes through in deciding what to ask and how to come to grips with what he or she learns. This book is not tidy. In addition to an underlying narrative (modern memoirist learning ever more detail), Batthyany plunges us into various points of his grandmother's life, and that of a childhood friend. In isolation, each of those earlier narratives is compelling; together, there is a poignant interleaving. At intervals, Batthyany layers in vignettes from his father's childhood and his grandfather's situation after the war. If that were not enough, Batthyany dots the pages with his metacognition about what it is like to be the one uncovering your family's past. So yes, six distinct storylines, some circling in among themselves or clustering for a span with another storyline before separating again -- presented from various perspectives and in a way that often builds suspense and comprehension yet sometimes causes confusion. If this sounds like it is hard work to read, well, yes, it is. I was frustrated at times about threads that were dropped, and how the arc would build to a point, like a train building up speed on a straightaway, before suddenly being shunted to a siding. I persevered, though, because of my interest in the time in Europe immediately after WWII, and frankly because of wanting to know how the untold events in this family's being had contributed to individual outlooks and choices on the part of Batthyany, his father, and his grandmother. The writing is clear and the sharing of information is generous. I do think the structure of the book could use some nudges for the sake of clarity, but I don't quite know how an editor could guide such changes without stripping the book of its raw, authentic voice. I've annotated the book with nonspoiler thoughts and quotes while reading and mention this in case they help you decide whether to pick up the book. I anticipate that some readers may find the closing section about how we today might cope had we lived during WWII to be at odds with the concept of the book. I found it worthwhile, but thought that structurally this section would be more effective and less confusing to readers as an afterword.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Wend Wendland

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is about a 30 something year old Swiss man of Hungarian descent who discovers that his Hungarian grandparents, great grandparents and an aunt did nothing in the 1930s to help the Jews who were persecuted by the authorities in Hungary at that time. (Hungary was a staunch Nazi ally). The great grandparents, the grandparents and aunt were not evil people, yet they (and many others) turned a blind eye when their neighbors and friends who were Jews were rounded up and sent to the gas chambe This book is about a 30 something year old Swiss man of Hungarian descent who discovers that his Hungarian grandparents, great grandparents and an aunt did nothing in the 1930s to help the Jews who were persecuted by the authorities in Hungary at that time. (Hungary was a staunch Nazi ally). The great grandparents, the grandparents and aunt were not evil people, yet they (and many others) turned a blind eye when their neighbors and friends who were Jews were rounded up and sent to the gas chambers. The question the author asks himself is if he is a product of these ancestors and if and how his life, today, mirrors some of the omissions and failings of his ancestors. Is there such a thing as ‘rotten seeds’? Does he himself, today, turn a blind eye to things that he should not? Does he carry some responsibility for what happened back then? A profound observation he makes is that sometimes the most important events of a person’s life can happen before they are born. He writes that he now sees that, like his ancestors, he lives like a mole, avoiding conflict and avoiding taking a stand, and he doesn’t like what he sees. The book was published in 2016, so he is asking these question today of events that took place 70 years ago. A book such as this cannot be expected to end with clear ‘conclusions’ but my interpretation is that in the end the author accepts that his ancestors were more than simply their failings towards their Jewish neighbors, that all people are complex beings with positive and less than positive attributes and that he is as much the product of his ancestors’ virtues as of their weaknesses. A stimulating book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Liz Davidson

    Aspects of this book are excellent. Batthyany strives to ask deeper questions about complacency, what it means to be a good person who stands up for their beliefs, and what he himself would do under pressure. He does this by examining the history of his family and their actions during WWII, beginning with his Aunt Margit--who is implicated in the massacre of 180 Jews at the end of the war--and continuing with his grandmother, who does nothing to help a Jewish family she loves and spends the rest Aspects of this book are excellent. Batthyany strives to ask deeper questions about complacency, what it means to be a good person who stands up for their beliefs, and what he himself would do under pressure. He does this by examining the history of his family and their actions during WWII, beginning with his Aunt Margit--who is implicated in the massacre of 180 Jews at the end of the war--and continuing with his grandmother, who does nothing to help a Jewish family she loves and spends the rest of her life troubled by that decision. Batthyany is able to include not only his own research, but actual writings by both his grandmother and her childhood friend, Agnes, who is taken to Auschwitz but ultimately survives. These aspects of the book are fascinating, but the book itself is a bit scattered, and Batthyany includes other elements that I feel detract from the overall narrative. For example, later in the book, he encounters a prostitute on a train and graphically imagines various aspects of her life, including her performing oral sex on a customer. This scene not only didn't fit, but was made more disturbing by the fact that I listened to the audiobook for this one, and the performer changed his British accent to an "old country grandmother" accent when speaking as anyone else. So, imagine an unpleasantly detailed fellatio scene, punctuated by an Eastern European Mrs. Doubtfire saying 'Appy! 'Appy! because Pharrell Williams is playing in the background. Yes, literally. There is a lot of good stuff in here, but it would have been phenomenal without the distractions and self-indulgence.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kimbofo

    A Crime in the Family is a compelling memoir that looks at two of my favourite subjects: moral culpability and intergenerational guilt. Written by Swiss journalist Sacha Batthyány in an engaging but forthright tone, it combines autobiography with family history (the Batthyány family is so distinguished it has its own Wikipedia page) and explores what it is like to discover that one of your ancestors has carried out a horrendous war crime that has remained secret for decades. The book’s main focus A Crime in the Family is a compelling memoir that looks at two of my favourite subjects: moral culpability and intergenerational guilt. Written by Swiss journalist Sacha Batthyány in an engaging but forthright tone, it combines autobiography with family history (the Batthyány family is so distinguished it has its own Wikipedia page) and explores what it is like to discover that one of your ancestors has carried out a horrendous war crime that has remained secret for decades. The book’s main focus is one particular night in the spring of 1945 when Sacha’s great aunt, Countess Margit Batthyány, threw an extravagant party for German aristocrats and Nazi SS officers in her ancestral home — a castle — in the Hungarian village of Rechnitz. Part of the “entertainment” included the “sport” of shooting 180 Jewish workers dead and burying them in a mass grave. Batthyány uses family diaries from the time to tell the story and marries this with his own therapy sessions and journalistic research. At times the book reads like a travelogue, as Batthyány, often accompanied by his father (with whom he has a troubled relationship), visits landmarks associated with his dark family history, including the gulags of Russia and the extermination camp at Auschwitz. He also travels to South America to meet the descendants of some of the Jews who were killed in the massacre. This is a tragic and moving memoir about complicity, reconciliation and shining a light on the truth. Highly recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Kidwell

    A Crime in the Family A World War II Secret Buried in Silence--and My Search for the Truth by Sacha Batthyany Perseus Books, Da Capo Press Da Capo Press Biographies & Memoirs , History Pub Date 10 Oct 2017 I am reviewing a copy of A Crime in the Family through Da Capo Press and Netgalley: We are introduced to Agnes who was ninety during the prologue but was eighteen when she was deported to the concentration camp. She survived Aushwitz . In the Spring of 1945 on the Austrian-Hungarian not far from the fr A Crime in the Family A World War II Secret Buried in Silence--and My Search for the Truth by Sacha Batthyany Perseus Books, Da Capo Press Da Capo Press Biographies & Memoirs , History Pub Date 10 Oct 2017 I am reviewing a copy of A Crime in the Family through Da Capo Press and Netgalley: We are introduced to Agnes who was ninety during the prologue but was eighteen when she was deported to the concentration camp. She survived Aushwitz . In the Spring of 1945 on the Austrian-Hungarian not far from the front lines of the fast approaching red army Countess Margit Battyany gives a party in her mansion. The war was almost over and the SS officers and German aristocrats drinking were well aware that they were going to loose. Later that night the Nazis at the party walked down to the village wheee 180 Jewish laborers were enslaved, they made them strip down and shot them all. Saccha Batthyany pens a powerful memoir about the events and the vague memories of his Aunt Margarit. This book deals with not only the horrors of Aushwitz, but also the Chas of wartime Budapest and the brutalities of the soviet occupation. It tells stories of corruption and cover-up partly through surviving journals of others in the author's family. I give A Crime in the Family five out of five stars! Happy Reading!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Coleen

    This was not a Kindle Edition that I read. And I saw other titles for what I believe to be the same book, such as Crime of the Family? But I did read this true account by Batthyany of history in his family dating to 1944. My thoughts about the author are two fold: he must have an incredible conscience to feel any responsibility for what his family members did some almost 70 years ago; and writing this book must have been wonderfully therapeutic for him. As to the story, it is not too dissimilar fr This was not a Kindle Edition that I read. And I saw other titles for what I believe to be the same book, such as Crime of the Family? But I did read this true account by Batthyany of history in his family dating to 1944. My thoughts about the author are two fold: he must have an incredible conscience to feel any responsibility for what his family members did some almost 70 years ago; and writing this book must have been wonderfully therapeutic for him. As to the story, it is not too dissimilar from others in Europe at the time- when Jews were rounded up and sent away and frequently killed. The place was Hungary which was caught in the -we are allies of Germany- to - Germany has taken over our country. A rock and a hard place. Then Russia fits in - at the time, synonymous with Communism. Having read numerous accounts of the time period and the places and people involved, I was anxious to read yet one more. And this author presented a somewhat different perspective, as do many -- depending on who is relating what they know and / or believe. I enjoyed the book to the extent that one can enjoy excruciating details of a sorrowful situation. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Green

    The author of this book, a Swiss journalist, discovered that his great aunt was a war criminal and set out on a search to discover the ways in which his noble Hungarian family was implicated in the crimes of the Third Reich. At the same time, he describes the suffering visited on his family by the Soviet Union and the Communist government of post-war Hungary. His inquiries take him from Siberia to Argentina, and, of course, to Hungary. Translated from German with some awkwardness here and there, The author of this book, a Swiss journalist, discovered that his great aunt was a war criminal and set out on a search to discover the ways in which his noble Hungarian family was implicated in the crimes of the Third Reich. At the same time, he describes the suffering visited on his family by the Soviet Union and the Communist government of post-war Hungary. His inquiries take him from Siberia to Argentina, and, of course, to Hungary. Translated from German with some awkwardness here and there, this is definitely a major contribution to the effort of sorting out the horrible legacy of World War II. In addition to his own accounts, Batthyana includes excerpts from journals written by his grandmother and by a Jewish survivor, who knew the author's family when she was a child. The German title of the book, "Und was hat das mit mir zu tun?" (So what does that have to do with me?) conveys the question that the book sets out to answer. The aunt was not a blood relative, Batthyany wasn't even born when she committed her crime, and yet...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    A Crime in the Family by Sacha Batthyany is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early October. Batthyany takes a somewhat roundabout way to tell a story about his extended family - by integrating interviews from family members in Russia, Hungary, Austria, and Argentina, letters, diaries, newspaper clippings, and his own memories and staged, imagined dialogues, a reader learns about his grandmother, Maritta, and a Jewish girl, Agnes, whose family worked in service for Maritta before being evacua A Crime in the Family by Sacha Batthyany is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early October. Batthyany takes a somewhat roundabout way to tell a story about his extended family - by integrating interviews from family members in Russia, Hungary, Austria, and Argentina, letters, diaries, newspaper clippings, and his own memories and staged, imagined dialogues, a reader learns about his grandmother, Maritta, and a Jewish girl, Agnes, whose family worked in service for Maritta before being evacuated as a Jew to Auschwitz. Dotted like knotholes in the family woodwork is memories about his great-aunt, Margit, who was labelled as "The Hostess from Hell" or "The Killer Countess," since she had hosted a party in March 1945 where 180 Jewish people were killed at midnight after a night of drinking and dancing. Overall, it's unfulfilling and doesn't quite deliver on its title.

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