In 1965 the German journalist Horst Kriger attended the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt, where 22 former camp guards were put on trial for the systematic murder of over 1 million men, women and children. Twenty years after the end of the war, this was the first time that the German people were confronted with the horrific details of the Holocaust executed by 'ordinary men' still living in their midst.
The trial sent Kruger back to his childhood in the 1930s, in an attempt to understand 'how it really was, that incomprehensible time'. He had grown up in a Berlin suburb, among a community of decent, lower-middle-class homeowners. This was not the world of torch-lit processions and endless ranks of marching SA men. Here, people lived ordinary, non-political lives, believed in God and obeyed the law, but were gradually seduced and intoxicated by the promises of Nazism. He had been, Kruger realised, 'the typical child of innocuous Germans who were never Nazis, and without whom the Nazis would never have been able to do their work'.