Book Review: The Sonderberg Case by Elie Wiesel

Title: The Sonderberg Case
Author:  Elie Wiesel
Rating: 4/5

Summary:  Despite personal success, Yedidyah—a theater critic in New York City, husband to a stage actress, father to two sons—finds himself increasingly drawn to the past. As he reflects on his life and the decisions he’s made, he longingly reminisces about the relationships he once had with the men in his family (his father, his uncle, his grandfather) and the questions that remain unanswered. It’s a feeling that is further complicated when Yedidyah is assigned to cover the murder trial of a German expatriate named Werner Sonderberg. Sonderberg returned alone from a walk in the Adirondacks with an elderly uncle, whose lifeless body was soon retrieved from the woods. His plea is enigmatic: “Guilty . . . and not guilty.”

Review: Elie Wiesel is by far one of the most poignant authors that I have read.  I have read and reread his personal account of survival of the Holocaust, Night, and I love it in all its tragic suffering.

This book engages you psychologically and philosophically as you follow the case through the eyes of Yedidyah, who was a literary critic before having to cover the trial of Werner Sonderberg.  Sonderberg is accused of murdering his uncle after the pair of them had gone for a walk in the mountains and only Werner returns.  His uncle’s body found sometime later crumpled at the bottom of a cliff.

It comes out, eventually that Yedidyah is a Holocaust survivor, having come to the US at age four, and ultimately he returns to the German village of his childhood.  His savior was a Christian woman who worked for his mother, raised him as her own which at that time created anger and disrespect toward her in the village because Werner was perceived to be her illegitimate son.

Yedidyah then learns about the events leading up to the death of Sonderberg’s uncle.  His uncle was a Nazi, a member of the SS, an officer none the less, and he reveled in the murder of Jews.  He has no qualms about his actions, saying that he was creating for the coming generations, the ability to live without the impurity of the Jews.  Sonderberg is not pleased, blames his uncle and people like him for the feelings of guilt concerning the holocaust that his generation faces.

This is another dynamic piece of the aftermath of the holocaust, beautifully written.

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