(K. Brent Tomer),
The House by the Lake: One House, Five Families, and a Hundred Years of German History. By Thomas Harding. Picador; 410 pages; $28. William Heinemann; £20.
IN 2007 Thomas Harding, an English journalist, began probing his German-Jewish roots after hearing an amazing story at a family funeral. The result was “Hanns and Rudolf”, a bestselling account of how his great-uncle, Hanns Alexander, tracked down and eventually captured the kommandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss.
Mr Harding was only beginning to mine his family’s history, it transpired. In “The House by the Lake”, a book acclaimed in Britain last year and now available in America, his gaze broadens to the century-long saga of five families’ fortunes and misfortunes. If “Hanns & Rudolf” was a sonata, “The House by the Lake” is a symphony, telling the story of modern Germany with one recurring theme: history as seen from the Alexander family’s lake house outside Berlin.
Alfred Alexander, Mr Harding’s great-grandfather, built the house at Gross Glienicke, 15km (nine miles) west of Berlin, in 1927. A prominent doctor who counted…Continue reading