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Joachim Fest: No English publisher found his stunning account of German complicity

Historians in the News




Last week, after this year's Frankfurt Book Fair closed up shop, a reporter called Rowohlt Verlag in Hamburg to find out if a book in its catalogue called "Ich Nicht" had found an English-language publisher.

The answer was no. The woman from the foreign rights department said it was a shame.

Agreed. Published in Germany 13 months ago, "Ich Nicht" is a memoir by the late Joachim Fest, author of the best-known German study of Hitler and a co-publisher of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. It describes his father, his family and growing up in Nazi Germany.

The book is exceptional because it tells in a modest, believable, quietly bitter and totally proud way of the family's extraordinary decency - no ironically "good" Germans here - and its refusal to bend before Hitler.

The title packs it all in: Ich nicht, Fest's father's phrase, borrowed from the Book of Matthew. Others betray you, Ich nicht. The words are more powerful and less theatrical sounding in German than "Not I" in English (and less ordinary, exclamation point added, than the French "Pas Moi!", which is what the book is called in a translated version appearing in France this month)....

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