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The Scholl Case by Anja Reich-Osang and Imogen Taylor (translator)

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I think I'd like Ludwigsfelde. I wouldn't have liked it when it was an industrial village, with one or two huge mechanical plants and nothing else to its name. But now, even with the constant hum of the autobahn (one of Hitler's) keeping it company, it must have an appeal. It has been rebuilt, refashioned and remodelled since the end of East Germany, under the most prosperous and forward-looking mayor in the state, if not the country. He it was who put in a mostly-nude swimming spa. It has dispensers for doggy poo bags, so there's nothing as uncouth as taking your own. The mayor, bless him, even expanded the motorway to three lanes in each direction. It is within touch of Berlin, and in tune with so many business wants, yet is surrounded by woodland. Woodland where, between Christmas and New Year a few years back, the mayor's own wife and dog were found, both having been strangled…

The Scholl Case by Anja Reich-Osang and Imogen Taylor (translator)

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Category: Biography
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: More a biography than a true crime story, but call it what you will, this is certainly most compelling.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 214 Date: December 2016
Publisher: Text Publishing Company
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781925240931

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A lot of the shock in this case is that the mayor himself was the first and only person arrested for the murder. But after seeing the forensic detail leading up to the trial, the surprise may more suitably be thought that nothing like that had happened before then. In providing the face of a loving couple for the whole world, the pair were incredibly divided. They were two people very unlikely to get married in the first place, and seemed to fall into it. They never had a child together. He was damaged by an abusive, alcoholic father and a domineering and disliking mother, who demanded as a single parent that every hour was spent earning money for her household. She was damaged by being a spoilt bitch, to the extent that even at the peak of his office, he was expected to be at her beck and call – leaving functions to her schedule, doing whatever household chores she demanded that very minute, even breaking off from vital meetings to have a shopping list dictated to him. She was dictatorial to friends and strangers alike. He was arguably the most powerful man in the region – apart from within his own four walls.

This is one of those rarest of books, where it doesn't really matter that the blurb gives you the end of the tale – or it's certainly easily predicted. The book doesn't win awards for style, either, for there is little of it as such to worry about. What we do get is a brilliant concentration of the story. Nowhere is there the pattern of in interview, friend A told me this, whojammaflip was heard to say to whojammacallit that, the court was later to hear Ya di Yada claim the other; no – we just get this, that and the other. There is a whole unseen portion of the iceberg here, that is the research, and the shiny, glossy and sparkling fragment we get is the result of all that being so brilliantly and readably condensed by time and effort.

I am aware of flaws, in that it's one-sided, giving us much more about his life than hers, perhaps because so much of his world was in the public eye due to the trial, and she of course is no longer around to state her case. We definitely get more of his life story as a mayor than her working her way into the town's society from her beauty parlour. In defence of that is that he would have seemed to have suffered more throughout the marriage, and the ways throughout it that he responded are quite eye-opening, and more than newsworthy, especially towards the end. It's that that compels the reader most vividly, not so much the case of the lady who was killed. Then again, while I sound on the side of Team Mayor, I can see people having the other response, being much more in her favour than I found myself. Photos I found online (my edition providing none – another flaw) proved her to have had a compelling, but not entirely guilt-free, look. But I used the word above to describe her with both consideration and with the gut emotional response this book provides.

You won't have expected such response from a collective biography of a municipal German household. But there's a lot here you won't have foreseen. As a result it's most certainly worth a look. I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

A lot more about irregular families in East Germany can be had with Red Love: The Story of an East German Family by Maxim Leo.

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