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Let Me Go Paperback – August 30, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Schneider, who was born in Poland in 1937 and grew up in Berlin, shares the last encounter with her mother in Austria, after decades of separation, as readers become privy to her complex autobiography. In 1941, when Schneider was four, her mother abandoned her, her brother and her father to join the SS army in various concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and visited the family only once after leaving. Thirty years later, working as a writer in Italy, Schneider learns of the old woman's quickly deteriorating health and decidesâ€"albeit hesitantlyâ€"to pay her a visit. Schneider attempts to reconcile her ambivalent emotions toward a mother who unfalteringly announces, "Well, my daughter, like it or not, I have never regretted being a member of the Waffen SS, is that clear?" Schneider's first-person narration fluidly alternates between her inner thoughts and the conversation she has with her mother, and she's open about her overwhelming desire to come to terms with the convoluted circumstances of her youth. Schneider's voice is honest, and it's easy to understand the rapidly changing emotions that flow throughout: her panic attacks prior to the re-encounter, her desire to both forgive and physically harm her mother, her simple need to understand the truth. In the end, it's unclear whether the visit concretized Schneider's feelings toward her mother. She understands this situation doesn't have any one correct emotion and demonstrates this with explicit details of the conversation and what she felt at the time. The simple certainty of Schneider's pain, strength and intricate emotions resounds well after this story ends.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–When Schneider was four, her mother abandoned her children for a career in the SS. In the ensuing 57 years, Schneider saw her only once. Prompted by a letter from her mother's friend and emboldened by the presence of a cousin, she went again to visit the woman in a senior citizen's home in Vienna in 1998. In this searing memoir, she describes the visit and her struggles with a kind of instinctive mother-love, her feelings of abandonment, and a distaste at the thought of any connection to this morally repugnant person. Interspersed with the narrative of the visit are quotations from official records, Schneider's own recollections of a childhood in wartime Berlin, and scraps of horrific detail she remembers having heard about the experiences of concentration camp inmates such as those her mother guarded. "It was my job to assist the doctors," her mother says. Readers cannot help but be fascinated as well as horrified by this woman's unrepentance and the impenetrable shield she has built around her emotions. "I was only obeying orders." "I believed in Germany's mission." But when visiting hours are over, she cannot allow the daughter she abandoned to leave, grabbing her around the neck and kissing her wildly. This is a book for readers with some previous knowledge of the Holocaust, presenting a very different point of view. It is an excellent choice for discussion of the complex situations of people dealing with horrific events in their country's or their family's history whether they were peripherally involved, or not at all. A compelling and unforgettable story.–Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (August 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143035177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143035176
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,173,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Suzanne M. Wolski on January 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was spellbound by this book! Helga Schneiders honesty and courage for writing about her painful past is quite admirable.

Her mother was a frightening figure full of hate and had a complete lack of compassion. She abandons her children to become a concentration camp guard and even fifty years later still has no regrets. It must be horribly painful to have such a amoral parent, but in the context of a horrible war one can imagine how difficult it must have been.

I do not see this as Holocust literature as some have said, but more about a daughter trying to understand how she could have been given birth by such an evil person. I think it is an important piece of work. Thank you Helga Schneider it really made an impact on me.
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Format: Hardcover
I heard this book on audio, read by the great Barbara Rosenblatt. I found this book because I was looking for books she narrates.

This is one of the most profound books I've ever encountered. The balance of hatred and love. The longing for love. The unremitting digging by Helga at a mother who is both helpless and sadistic. As Helga is, too. I said "irritating," because I got really annoyed at the "why didn't you love me, mother?" repeated over and over in different ways. I wanted to say, "Oh, get a life." There was a certain amount of melodrama I got tired of. But the honesty was stunning and the ambiguity totally captivating. The descriptions of the people and places are marvelous.

I want to take issue with readers who complain about not knowing which camps the mother worked at. Helga provides endless details and digs for more. Her obsessive research is one of the best things about this book. There is no factual info missing.

This is a picture, closeup, of a woman whose life lacked meaning (the mother) until she found a belief and a home in the SS and somebody to hate -- the Jews. It gives new meaning to the idea of a woman's leaving home to "find herself." She found herself quite contentedly in hell. And her daughter deals with it all both intellectually and emotionally with amazing insight.

Wow. This book is going to haunt me for a long time.
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Format: Paperback
"Let Me Go" is one of the strangest, most thought-provoking books
about the murder of the European Jews, which, considering how many
such books there are, is saying something.

It recounts a two-hour conversation, with backgrounding excursions,
held in 1997 between Helga Schneider, then 60 years old, and her
mother, then about 90. It is, so far as I know, the only memoir by a
daughter about a mother that never names the mother.

But that is not nearly the strangest thing. When Helga was four, her
mother deserted her, her father and her infant brother to volunteer
as a guard at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Helga saw her mother two more
times, at intervals of about 30 years, the last encounter being
related here (from memory, as she does not indicate she took notes,
nor, in the emotionally explosive atmosphere, could she have done).

The heart-questioning of an abandoned child is powerful stuff but
neither new nor strange. But what are we to make of a fanatic Jew-
murderer who, after 60 years - the interview took place in 1998 -
does not show the slightest sign of doubt?

By this I do not mean moral doubt, but even the practical surmise
that, whatever one thought about the alleged "Jewish problem,"
starting a world war was not the cleverest way to go about "solving" it.

Schneider, clearly grasping at straws, imagines that her mother is
putting up an act, pretending to certainty as a way of completing a
divorce: a way of saying, I am not worthy, forget me.

However, this does not fit the rest of the facts as we are given
them, particularly Frau Schneider's begging not to be left
alone.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
i just finished the audio version of 'Let Me Go.' Over the course of a lifetime, thanks to countless tv documentaries, books, movies, museums exhibitions, etc., we're aware and informed of so much that occurred in the death camps during the Holocaust. We have heard many barbaric specifics before or at least enough to extrapolate much of the rest; much of it is not a surprise or revelation, per se, but more than half a century later in this story, the truths of the Holocaust still shock. Can you call an audio book a 'page turner?'

What sets this book apart in this audio version, is it's no-holds-barred, accounting straight from the mouth of a former female Nazi SS guard, the mother of the author, Helga Schneider. The author's rollercoaster of emotions and pain is pitiful and incredibly moving enough and in Rosesnblat's hands, the mother's undiminished hatred is so palpable; she is vile, repulsive, and totally unrepentant. This book speaks to the pathological motivations and complicity of that time. This is the voice of one woman and it is the voice of many. The question has been asked incessantly, by so many as to render it trite; 'How could this have happened?' In this book, in these words, and especially in this superb reading, you sit there and say to yourself, "This is how such a thing can happen."
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