A powerful memoir in which Helga Schneider describes her relationship and final encounter with her mother, a former SS guard at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
In 1998, Schneider is summoned to her 90 year-old mother's nursing home in Vienna. The last time she has seen her mother is 27 years earlier. Then, she had asked her to try on her treasured SS uniform, and wanted to give her several items of jewellery, the loot of holocaust victims, which Schneider rejected. Prior to that meeting, the last time she had seen her mother was in 1941, when she was four. Her mother abandoned her family in order to pursue her career with the SS.
During the conversation in Vienna, Schneider establishes that from the women's camp at Ravensbruck, her mother had moved to Auschwitz-Birkenau where she was in charge of a "correction" unit where brutal torture was administered. She was also involved with gas chambers and lethal injections. She was close to the highest echelons of Nazi power and knew all the details of Nazi atrocities, which she considered, and still considers, to be legitimate. Her mother continues to regard her former prisoners as the sub-human inferiors predicated by Nazi ideology. Without self-pity, Helga Schneider skillfully interweaves her family history into the interview with her mother, describing her difficult upbringing and the raising of her own child against the background of the reality of her mother's past.