Review Blog

Dec 02 2019

Hadamar: The House of Shudders by Jason K. Foster

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Big Sky, 2019. ISBN: 9781925675863.
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. This story is based on real events. The author has used primary sources to create a compelling and horrifying story that explains in vivid detail the phrase: Lebenunswerte Leben (life unworthy of life). The story portrays the ways physicians (authorised by Hitler) selected patients deemed incurably sick and administered to them a "mercy death" or implemented sterilisation procedures. Hadamar was, and is, a hospital in Germany where the euthanasia programme was implemented during World War II.
So, while the language level is well suited to the young adult reader, this is not easy to read. The scale of the mass murder is difficult to comprehend. Told through the eyes of a child, Ingrid, we see the actions of the Gestapo in segregating children of mixed race, those with disabilities and those that were ill. On arrival at Hadamar Ingrid experiences the cruelty and evil that are enacted each day, such as invitations to picnics that end in death. While the story is related without hyperbole - the events are no less harrowing.
Justice and revenge are themes that recur throughout the book. Ingrid provides assistance to the Americans, anxious to have the staff answer for their crimes. The trials provide the reader an opportunity to hear the staff outline their defence for their actions, and to further understand Ingrid's reflections on her time in Hadamar (including her actions).
This novel would be a powerful text in Year 10. It humanises the history of the atrocities instigated by Hitler and allows the student to consider the broader view. It is an opportunity for the reader to remember the past and inspires the reader to question.
Teacher notes are available.
Linda Guthrie

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