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The Butchers of Berlin

The Butchers of Berlin - Chris Petit This may be the darkest book I have ever read. Not surprisingly, a story about serial killers in Berlin during WWII was never going to be an exercise in sweetness and light.

It is however, a very well written book. It explores questions about bigotry, its genesis, its trajectory and its place within civil society. The following passage perfectly encapsulates the path and the pitfalls of bigotry and racism, especially state-sanctioned racism in all its overt and covert forms:

"'The dog eats its own tail in the system we have created. A state of super-vigilance has to be maintained. With the Jews nearly gone that fear has to relocate.'

He pointed to the last of the city skyline and said nearly all the men are away now, leaving the bulk of the male population consisting of aliens.

Nebe had said as much.

'It is what we always feared. The foreign presence. The racial virus. The Russians are a sullen, grumbling attendance in our midst, cowed for the moment but the beast will awake. We've had our time in the sun as divine monsters. All that's left now is this mutating state, a side effect of the war machine, which is technical, rational and scientific, in contrast to the irrationality given to inventing improbable grandiose enemies. The insecure hysteria that swept us into power was bound to reveal its dark Wagnerian heart and that implosion is starting to happen.'"

Unfortunately, these seem to be questions that are still very relevant today, not just in reflection of the events surrounding WWII.

There are depictions of graphic violence in the book. While they are relevant to the plot, they may be beyond the tolerance of the squeamish, and consequently may be considered to be unnecessary by some readers. Notwithstanding this, this book is a dark, brooding and thought-provoking read.