“HOW DID YOU MANAGE NOT TO HATE BACK?”: Tim Pröse’s book “Jahrhundertzeugen” about people who witnessed the Nazi dictatorship

18 people. Resitance fighters, Holocaust survivors, surviving dependant of the Nazi dictatorship. In the last 20 years German author and journalist Tim Pröse did meet them – spoke with them about their personal stories.

Among them Inge Scholl. Sister of Hans and Sophie Scholl – both resistance fighters who were killed by the Nazi dictatorship. “Long live freedom,” were Hans Scholl’s last words before his death.

Tim Pröse’s book “Jahrhundertzeugen” [= “witnesses of the century“] documents the conversations.

Like the one with a Holocaust survivor. A man who survived because of Oskar Schindler. “Schindler was a man beyond measure,” says Pröse. Steven Spielberg’s movie “Schindler’s List” from 1993. Schindler a German businessman, saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.

It says a lot, if an American director has to be the first one showing what Schindler has done.

As he was starting to work on the book, Tim Pröse was just fired from a position as an editor. The book gave him a new perspective, he remembers. “Friends and family were concerned, I could become depressive.” But the result was the opposite.

All the witnesses are role models. If I’m afraid today, their stories set things right.

Starting to investigate, for Tim Pröse, came from a personal fascination. “I wanted to know these heroes,” says the author. Carefully and over a long period of time he spoke with the witnesses about their stories. Some of them even became friends.

And many of them he asked one special question: “How did you manage not to hate back?” The answer, most of the times, was the same: “If I start to hate back, Hitler would win…

Tim Pröse’s book “Jahrhundertzeugen” is published by Heyne.

(reported by Lars Göllnitz)