The SS man lives on. More than half a century after the members of this organisation finally slipped out of their blood, sweat and office-dust covered uniforms once and for all, they are a more familiar sight than ever. Instantly recognisable in their high boots and black garb they stomp through films, comics and novels. So I find it surprising, neither as reader nor author, that a former SS officer has been saying “je” in a prize-winning “French bestseller for over a year now and “ich” in the 400-page German translation since the Febrary 23rd. And it’s not as if anyone in this country who takes up Jonathan Littell’s novel “Les Bienveillantes” doesn’t know what they’re in for, historically speaking. An SS man as narrator inevitably means no end of blood and thunder combined with the elaborate logistics and technological innovations necessary for the mass murder of what National Socialism deemed inferior human beings and enemies of the state. These crimes have been comprehensively documented and extensively recounted. Parallel to this factual research and fictionalisation, in the second half of the twentieth century – from the Nuremburg Trials to the most recent book publications – these crimes have been ascribed with a singular distinctiveness. More so than other horrific deeds, those committed by the SS are seen to possess a transcendent, metaphysical quality, which to this day, conjures up the very essence of evil.
more from Sign and Sight here.