The Nightmare Dance, David Gilbertson

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Since the 1960s, the Holocaust has been presented as an aberration, confined to Germany and the Nazi leaders who held power during the twelve years after 1933. Responsibility has been heaped upon a few villains in jackboots and black uniforms, whose names have become synonymous with evil. Yet behind these nightmare monsters lie other spectres whose names are barely remembered; whose lives are forgotten. The Nightmare Dance focuses on the lives of five very different individuals who were at the heart of the Holocaust, but whose names are known only to a few specialist historians of the period.

Publisher: Matodor, August 2014

Reviewer: Caroline Hammond

David Gilbertson sets out in the first chapter of his book a very clear, passionate message about how he feels the knowledge of, and so lessons learnt from, the Second World War is dwindling with each successive generation. He expounds strong views of what he terms the ‘Facebook generation’ and their lack of understanding or even knowledge of basic facts about this major world event. This chapter demonstrates Gilbertson’s passionate views along with his depth and breadth of  knowledge however it is probably the least accessible part of the book and there are some views which he strongly asserts which may not ring true for all readers although it is an interesting viewpoint. However, this chapter is not representative of the entire work.

Gilbertson takes a refreshingly different approach to the Second World War without resorting to thematic or linear, time line driven narratives. A key person, in Gilberton’s view, is the focus of each individual chapter and you follow their story through the war. Some of the figures are well known and others less so, some are military and other civilian which gives the book a human slant that other history books.

These chapters are easy to read, compelling in their narrative and you can see Gilbertson’s research in the text. Photographs break up the text and add to the ‘human element’ of the book. The book should appeal to anyone with even a cursory interest in the Second World War and whilst the horror and cruelty of war are written in the page, there is a welcome balance with those who demonstrated courage,stoicism, bravery and humour in such adversity.


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