Friday, 3 October 2014

The Nightmare Dance: Guilt, Shame, Heroism and The Holocaust - Book Review

The Nightmare Dance
Guilt, Shame, Heroism and The Holocaust
by David Gilbertson


We all know the names of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, but they weren’t the only people who played a key part in the Holocaust...

The Nightmare Dance by David Gilbertson tells the stories of 5 other individuals who were at the heart of these horrifying events. The accepted view is that the murder of at least 6 million Jews, and countless other Russians, Poles, gypsies, homosexuals, etc., was the result of a small band of madmen seizing control of an entire nation. The guilt or innocence of others is at best ignored and at worst denied.

Josef Blösche and Christian Wirth were psychotic killers, whose names are unknown to all but a handful of historians. One died a decorated war hero; the other was executed after being convicted before an East German court. Their crimes shaped millions of peoples’ fates. Stella Goldschlag, a young and beautiful German Jew, if she were alive today, would no doubt argue that she was as much a victim of the Holocaust as any Jew who ever passed through the gates of Auschwitz – but she would be lying. She willingly worked for the Gestapo and was responsible for the death of hundreds – perhaps thousands – of Jews.

Then there were the people who fought back: Janusz Korczak, whose life and hero’s death has ensured that he will always be seen by those who know his story as a secular saint. King Christian X of Denmark denied that his country had ‘a Jewish problem’. The actions of the King, and the Danish people, demonstrated the leadership and bravery of a nation pitted against an implacable enemy, as well as the unifying strength that comes from doing what is right.

The Nightmare Dance focuses on the people who have been forgotten, and how the Holocaust has largely – and wrongly – been confined to Germany, a few Germans and a short period in history. “Brought up as a Catholic, it was only in later life, following the death of my mother, that I discovered that I had Jewish roots and ancestry – a family secret concealed for many decades,”  comments David on the inspiration behind his book.


Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to the cover of the book - the look on the little boy's face is haunting.  What threat is he? What happened to him? Who is the man behind the machine gun and why?  This book provides an explanation.

I don't think you could ever describe this book as enjoyable or a thrilling read because of the nature of its content, however it was well written and well researched although I am no expert.

I wouldn't say that I am fascinated by the horrors of The Holocaust but I am interested in how apparently "normal" people can end up committing such atrocities against fellow human beings and the reverse, how strangers put themselves at risk of certain death to protect others. This book gave good insight into both perspectives.

One gripe I have, and it's purely personal, is that there are a number of "big" and "complicated" words that are not in every day use which interrupted the flow for me at times. For example "on the basis of rival power-blocs and personal fiefdoms of byzantine complexity ...." what????? Why do this? I read it once, twice, three times to try and figure out what it meant but after that, I gave up and skipped it. I don't like having to have a dictionary with me when I read so having to skip sentences it a tad annoying but maybe it's just me and I'm a bit thick!

Would I recommend this to someone else? Yes - I know there are a lot of books out there that cover this very same subject BUT they are usually about the same people - as mentioned in the description.  So, if you are interested in reading about people not normally involved or highlighted in this context plus learn about some of the history behind the hatred of the Jews, then read this.

Thanks to and the publisher, Troubador Publishing Ltd for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review.

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