The Karnau Tapes
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A powerful and disturbing novel of the Nazi era and its legacy by the winner of Germany’s Ernst Willner Prize. During the final days of the Reich, sound engineer Herman Karnau is brought to Hitler’s bunker to record the Fuhrer’s last utterances. There he finds young Helga Goebbels and her siblings, children of Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, awaiting a terrible fate. Translated by John Brownjohn.
he looks as if he's going to explode. Then he quietens down again and talks about Frederick the Great. A sad figure, actually. He'd lost all his teeth, suffered from gout, and was in constant pain. A great general, but feeble and dying of disease. Papa mentions the Führer, and they all get up off their chairs, clapping and cheering. The noise goes on for ages, it doesn't die down till they can't clap or cheer any more. Even Papa is worn out and has to take a breather. I hope he won't be much
off this vein for me and keep swabbing. Who was responsible for shaving him? Whoever it was, he made another rotten job of it.' My eyelids are spattered with something warm and wet: my own blood or Stumpfecker's saliva? I hear a second voice: 'Nasty mess, that. Great view, though.' It must be Hellbrandt, watching the progress of the incision. A curt response from Stumpfecker: 'Peel back the periosteum and clamp it. There it is, you see? That's the white of the cranium showing through. Get
favour?' 'Of course.' 'It's Hedda's birthday soon — May the fifth — but we don't have any presents for her yet. Papa was talking about chocolate just now, and a bar of chocolate would make her a really nice present. Would you see if you can find one somewhere?' 'I'll certainly keep my eyes open. It might be worth taking a peek in the kitchen some time.' 'Hedda mustn't find out, though, or it wouldn't be a surprise.' 'My lips are sealed.' Herr Karnau smiles. He's the only person I can trust
Let's play digging. We'll pretend the teaspoon's a little shovel and the sugar's sand. There's a heap of it in the sugar bowl, and we've got to dig a hole. The hole keeps filling up with sugar. If you hold the sugar back with another spoon so it doesn't trickle into the hole, you can see a little bare patch on the bottom. It's shiny, the bottom of the sugar bowl, but grains of sugar are starting to cover it again. 'Hedda, take your fingers out of the sugar bowl.' A fork. A fork makes a good
is naked. That much is obvious, though all that suggests it are her bare, slender shoulders. The pale oilskin sheet covering the body from the chest down has slipped a little, revealing the left breast, because the head has been raised to show off the slightly pointed chin, the full, loosely compressed lips, the delicate nose, the closed eyes beneath the broad brow ridges, the long lashes, the arching eyebrows, the smooth, unlined forehead. The skin is universally flawless, and the complexion