Api’s Berlin Diaries

My Quest to Understand My Grandfather’s Nazi Past

Author: Gabrielle Robinson
Narrator: Gryphon Corpus
Length: 9 hours 37 minutes
Publisher: gabriellerobinson.com
Released: Feb. 23, 2022
Genre: Memoir; Biography

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In 62 brief chapters, my memoir moves between three perspectives. After my mother's death, I found my grandfather's diaries. They revealed that my beloved Api had been a member of the Nazi Party. Shocked and ashamed, I hid the diaries again, just as my mother had done. It took me two years until I could confront a past I had evaded all my life.

In part, I was persuaded by historians who stressed the importance of such documents for our understanding of the times. But a major impetus came from a book about slaves the author's grandfather had kept. He overcame his reluctance to write about this by thinking that he may not be responsible, but he is accountable for what his grandfather did. This also led me to reflections about my grandfather's guilt and all our political responsibility.

A large part of the book tells the story of Api's diaries, his struggle to survive and help others in Berlin 1945, homelessness, hunger, and epidemics. He worked as doctor in the center of Berlin under day and night bombing, the air filled with acrid smoke and the stench of corpses. Medical cellars had neither water nor light, and the dead were simply stacked outside. This in turn is juxtaposed with my recollections of living with Api after the war, my first stable home and the happiest years of my childhood. He loved me and played with me, taught me Latin, and showed me how to build a kite.

Reviews show that audiences feel compassion for Api and at the same time understand that we all have to confront our family's and our country's past. I hope the final takeaway is to gain a new appreciation for what binds us together, to feel empathy for all of us, no matter how different we are.

Meet the Author: Gabrielle Robinson

My writing explores the impact of history on our lives as we search for identity and a home. One reason for my fascination how the past impacts us in the present stems from my own experience. Born in Berlin in 1942, my family fled the city in 1945. This was for me the beginning of a string of migrations, boarding schools in Vienna and on the Baltic, a small town near Hamburg, a move to the US, first Urbana, Illinois, then New York and London where I earned a PhD in Modern Drama. I taught at the University of Illinois, where my only son was born, Indiana University South Bend, and abroad. I am now settled in South Bend, Indiana with my husband Mike, and cat Max. Api's Berlin Diaries. My Quest to Understand my Grandfather's Nazi Past, winner of five book awards After my mother’s death, I found diaries my grandfather had kept while serving as doctor in the ruins of Berlin 1945. Api, as I affectionately called him, worked in medical cellars without water and even light. But then the diaries revealed something that had never been mentioned in my family. Api had been a member of the Nazi party. Shocked and ashamed, I continued my family’s silence. Months later, I happened to read Slaves in the Family where Edward Ball declares that he may not be responsible for what his family did, but he is accountable. So I confronted a past I had evaded all my life. I have come to understand the need to account for our pasts in order to live together with compassion and tolerance, and that, perhaps, a story like this can help us.

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