The Holocaust, quite rightly, remains the defining event in the lives of several generations of Europeans, especially, of course, among Germans. While many choose to remain silent about the degree of their own or their family’s participation in or resistance to the Nazi regime, ever more fictional dramatizations of that nation’s struggle with collective guilt roll off the presses. The scale, like the horror, of this murderous bureaucracy defies even the most powerful imaginations, and few of the imaginations that grapple with this issue in fictional form are adequate to the task. Equally disturbing, many critics are reluctant to point out such novels’ flaws or are simply blinded to them by the topic’s sensitive nature.

Two of the post-Holocaust novels recently translated for US readers have long been available in Europe, where they were anointed with the usual collections of superlatives....

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