For most of his life, Derek Niemann's father kept his early childhood hidden away from the world, his children, even, perhaps, from himself. Though he had lived through the war in Nazi Germany, he never, ever, discussed it in front of anyone. It wasn't until Derek was 50 years of age that he made the chilling discovery that his grandfather Karl had been an officer in the SS, attached to the slave labour camp in Dachau. A lifetime of unsettling hints and clues began to fall into place, and Derek set out to unearth the true story of an often contradictory family man and his involvement in one of the greatest horrors in human history.Eleven million people perished in the Holocaust. Most of them slept (and many died) in the bunk beds that Derek's grandfather had responsibility for manufacturing. Karl regularly visited concentration camps as part of his work. He saw the skeletal figures and witnessed torture and brutality. Yet for ten years he carried on working for the SS regardless, taking home his wages, tending his garden, reinventing himself in the evenings as a family man.In this shocking book Derek reveals story of a family living through the formation of Nazi Germany from the ashes of the Great War, right through to its collapse under Allied and Russian assault. This is an unflinching look at a man who, whether through compulsion or circumstance, fell into the darkest service of Nazi Germany; of a wife, obstinate in her opposition to the regime, but loyal and loving to her SS officer husband; and of children who through incent eyes saw the rise and fall of a country and a family.
Derek Niemann is the editor of the RSPB children's magazines and has written several books on nature and conservation for young readers. He is also the author of adult non-fiction book Birds in a Cage (Short Books, 2012), the story of PoW birdwatchers in WWII. He lives in Bedfordshire with his family.