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A prize-winning Dutch journalist’s unsparing memoir of growing up amid the excesses, triumphs, and devastation of post–World War II Europe What can a son say upon discovering that his father wore a Nazi uniform? Reporter Alexander Münninghoff was only four when he found this mortifying relic from his father’s recent past in his attic. This shameful memento came to symbolize A prize-winning Dutch journalist’s unsparing memoir of growing up amid the excesses, triumphs, and devastation of post–World War II Europe What can a son say upon discovering that his father wore a Nazi uniform? Reporter Alexander Münninghoff was only four when he found this mortifying relic from his father’s recent past in his attic. This shameful memento came to symbolize not only his father’s tragically misguided allegiance but also a shattered marriage and ultimately the unconscionable separation of a mother and son. In this revelatory memoir, the author confronts his parents’ complex past as he reconstructs the fortunes and disillusions of an entire family upheaved during the changes of twentieth-century Europe. The Münninghoffs were driven by greed, rebellion, and rage. An embattled dynasty, they were torn between the right and the wrong side of history. Their saga haunted Alexander’s life for the next seventy years. Only in reconciling with them can this man find the courage to move forward as son and heir to the startling legacy of a flawed yet grand tradition.


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A prize-winning Dutch journalist’s unsparing memoir of growing up amid the excesses, triumphs, and devastation of post–World War II Europe What can a son say upon discovering that his father wore a Nazi uniform? Reporter Alexander Münninghoff was only four when he found this mortifying relic from his father’s recent past in his attic. This shameful memento came to symbolize A prize-winning Dutch journalist’s unsparing memoir of growing up amid the excesses, triumphs, and devastation of post–World War II Europe What can a son say upon discovering that his father wore a Nazi uniform? Reporter Alexander Münninghoff was only four when he found this mortifying relic from his father’s recent past in his attic. This shameful memento came to symbolize not only his father’s tragically misguided allegiance but also a shattered marriage and ultimately the unconscionable separation of a mother and son. In this revelatory memoir, the author confronts his parents’ complex past as he reconstructs the fortunes and disillusions of an entire family upheaved during the changes of twentieth-century Europe. The Münninghoffs were driven by greed, rebellion, and rage. An embattled dynasty, they were torn between the right and the wrong side of history. Their saga haunted Alexander’s life for the next seventy years. Only in reconciling with them can this man find the courage to move forward as son and heir to the startling legacy of a flawed yet grand tradition.

30 review for The Son and Heir: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Again)

    3.5 stars I was drawn to this book because I wanted to know what would make a Dutch boy raised in Latvia want to run off and fight for the Nazis in World War II. That's exactly what Frans Munninghoff, the author's father, did when he was a teenager. I learned a couple of things. One was that early in the war, certain Baltic countries were more afraid of Soviet Russia than they were of Hitler. They thought Germany was going to be their savior, preventing Stalin from swallowing them up. The other t 3.5 stars I was drawn to this book because I wanted to know what would make a Dutch boy raised in Latvia want to run off and fight for the Nazis in World War II. That's exactly what Frans Munninghoff, the author's father, did when he was a teenager. I learned a couple of things. One was that early in the war, certain Baltic countries were more afraid of Soviet Russia than they were of Hitler. They thought Germany was going to be their savior, preventing Stalin from swallowing them up. The other thing I learned was that Frans Munninghoff was just a spoiled boy who detested his Dutch heritage and wanted to get back at his father for forcing him to be educated in the Netherlands. It turns out that being in the Waffen SS was just the beginning of his life as a ne'er-do-well. He spent his whole life cheating people, cheating on people, and never having to pay any real consequences for his actions. His father was an extremely wealthy businessman and saw to it that Frans never really suffered as he should have for his Nazi affiliation. The "heir" in the title is the author, Alexander Munninghoff. This is another one of those stories where a boy is only of value because he stands to inherit the family fortune. Beyond that, no one cares much about what happens to him. In some ways I found his story more interesting than his father's. He had no stability and not a whole lot of love in his upbringing, and he could easily have turned out to be a shiftless scam artist like his father. It's admirable that instead he went on to create a successful, accomplished life for himself. The book is quite well written, as memoirs go, although it suffers at times from overtelling. I found it difficult to keep track of all the family members and friends and their nationalities and how they fit into the narrative. Still, it's well worth reading if you want to see how the iniquities of the fathers are visited upon their offspring to the third and fourth generations, just as it says in scripture.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Moira McGeough

    Alexander Munninghoff's memoir left me very grateful for the family I was born into! Just very ordinary people, hard working and kind..... always kind. There was very little kindness in the Munninghoff tribe, resulting in bitterness and tragedy. I did learn some background about the Baltic states in WW2 which was interesting, but other than that it was a grim read. Alexander Munninghoff's memoir left me very grateful for the family I was born into! Just very ordinary people, hard working and kind..... always kind. There was very little kindness in the Munninghoff tribe, resulting in bitterness and tragedy. I did learn some background about the Baltic states in WW2 which was interesting, but other than that it was a grim read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott J Pearson

    The author, an award-winning Dutch journalist with professional expertise on Russia, writes his family history that is well-grounded in the European experience. This family of riches and complexities has ties to Latvia, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Like most memoirs, this work can be seen as the author making sense of his own complex life here. Münginghoff died in April of 2020, shortly before this translation was published. Overall, this is a tragic story, not a hopeful one. There are The author, an award-winning Dutch journalist with professional expertise on Russia, writes his family history that is well-grounded in the European experience. This family of riches and complexities has ties to Latvia, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Like most memoirs, this work can be seen as the author making sense of his own complex life here. Münginghoff died in April of 2020, shortly before this translation was published. Overall, this is a tragic story, not a hopeful one. There are few noble characters detailed inside. It is simply a story of European life, caught up in the difficulties of the Second World War. The author’s grandfather was a rich businessman who was kicked out of Latvia by the Bolsheviks. His son, the author’s father, was a German SS officer on the Eastern front. He had many failings, which are detailed in this work. The family story bobs and weaves from there. His son, a writer and lawyer by trade, has obviously tried to make sense of his family history. There are very few healthy relationships described in this book. Indeed, there is much strangeness. In some ways, it reads like a Franz Kafka novel with all of its grotesqueness. Each of the main characters appear profoundly lonely and manipulate their family members to achieve their individually desired ends. The author seems to be seeking some sort of peace and normalcy within this maelstrom. This book is recommended to those seeking to make sense of their own variegated family experiences. Also, the European backdrop highlights national rivalries and historical prejudices of this complex continent. As one would expect from an award-winning journalist, it is well-composed and appears thoroughly researched. I am left desiring more hopefulness and noble character, however. These people seem to lack virtue – at least, when virtue is present, the author views it as a mere mask of darker sentiments. Thus, the reader is left with much cynicism and without much positive to take away.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Joost Bouwman

    Really enjoyed this book about the family of former Dutch correspondent in Russia Alexander Munninghoff. The stories about his trading and scheming grandfather are fascinating. The stories about the doomed romance between his parents is mostly tragic. His father never recovers from the war, during which he fought for the SS because he felt more (Baltic-)German than Dutch, and losing his beloved Baltic German pre-war world. The relationship between the tycoon and his son never recovers from the a Really enjoyed this book about the family of former Dutch correspondent in Russia Alexander Munninghoff. The stories about his trading and scheming grandfather are fascinating. The stories about the doomed romance between his parents is mostly tragic. His father never recovers from the war, during which he fought for the SS because he felt more (Baltic-)German than Dutch, and losing his beloved Baltic German pre-war world. The relationship between the tycoon and his son never recovers from the attempt to dutchify the latter - although after the war the son realises he can't go without his fathers money. The grandfather always wanted his son to marry a Dutch girl instead (from an important business family). When the marriage breaks up he drives the mother away to Germany and manages to kidnap the grandson to have him raised in the Netherlands. Neither parents seems particularly interested in young Alexander. His father leads a live of drinking and scheming, but lacking his fathers savy in business keeps losing money. His mother leads a life in poverty, never getting over the failed marriage and the rejection by the family. At times the stories seem a bit far fetched, but I expect most of it is based on facts. Naturally a lot of the conversation is not factual, but this makes the book very easy to read. The book gives a small insight into German-Baltic, a world we know so little about and a history we learn very little about in school. The books I know of about men fighting for Nazi Germany are mostly about people looking for adventure. The Baltic perspective was a very interesting and unexpected addition.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Connie53

    Very well written true story by Alexander Münninghoff. He is the heir or maybe I should say the Lineage holder. He tells about his grandfather (a very rich Dutchman who gets very rich before and during WWII) and his father (who is kind of a loser) and about himself (known Dutch journalist). I googled a lot while reading and everything checked out. It was very informative and I liked the way he writes. Never emotional, always keeping a distance, but not cold.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Howdle

    This memoir by Munninghoff is fascinating, but not written evenly. This issue reflects the son-father relationship and its changing nature. Part One centres on indirectly experienced events: the influence of the author's impressive and deceptive grandfather on events. The Old Boss was a wily businessman who played the Nazis off against the Americans and managed to be all things to all people. These events are awkwardly related, but nonetheless fascinating, and the machinations of the Old Boss an This memoir by Munninghoff is fascinating, but not written evenly. This issue reflects the son-father relationship and its changing nature. Part One centres on indirectly experienced events: the influence of the author's impressive and deceptive grandfather on events. The Old Boss was a wily businessman who played the Nazis off against the Americans and managed to be all things to all people. These events are awkwardly related, but nonetheless fascinating, and the machinations of the Old Boss and the goings on in the family smoking room connect to central issues in the Third Reich . Some critical events, however, are casually thrown away. The Old Boss sent the author's father, Franz, to Norfolk for a holiday, to stay with a friend. During this time, the teenage Franz became friends with none other than J.F.Kennedy. Writing with a journalist's eye, rather than a historian's, Munninghoff skips over the event as nothing more than a photo in the mind's photo album. Part Two focuses on childhood. Here, the writing is intimate and detailed and told with real emotion. This section reads smoothly and is filled with moving vignettes and childhood's horrors! In Part Three, the narrative is perfunctory. The author's relationship with father and mother have been broken for many years: consequently, the final section just fills in parts of a family jigsaw -- it is the least interesting part of the memoir. Overall, The Son and Heir is enlightening, yet it avoids the one question that I expected to be answered, especially after the memoir's opening, when Alexander/Bully discovers Nazi regalia in his father's wardrobe, what is it like to be the descendant of a paramilitary Nazi?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    I chose this book from Amazon first reads, expecting a different view and experience of WW II. It is that but I found too much of the story was simply personal family soap-opera stories. I still enjoyed the book for its historical aspects.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dallas Ashbay

    This book had me feeling so raw, like somebody had stripped back all my tissue and I became nothing more than a series of exposed nerves. The Son and Heir is so powerful. It simultaneously manages to be extravagant and relatable. It is struggle amplified and shame personified. There is no better representation of the internal familial friction inspired by the patriarchy, and the malignant friction fathers and sons share for each other. Also, this paints a beautiful, if not melancholic view, of E This book had me feeling so raw, like somebody had stripped back all my tissue and I became nothing more than a series of exposed nerves. The Son and Heir is so powerful. It simultaneously manages to be extravagant and relatable. It is struggle amplified and shame personified. There is no better representation of the internal familial friction inspired by the patriarchy, and the malignant friction fathers and sons share for each other. Also, this paints a beautiful, if not melancholic view, of Europe that I find absolutely fascinating as an American.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elidoyle

    Tedious Dry, brittle recounting of a self-serving, quarreling family. The reviews claimed this reads like a novel. It does not. Disappointed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tim Dailey

    A memoir with a clear eyed view toward the cacophony of a wealthy family with money to burn and lives to live. It is striking that this memoir came at the end of the authors life. His depiction of his father is blunt as he was a nazi sergeant and ultimately lifelong foolish spender who came down to reality by being disavowed from an epically wealthy father at a young age. This book is full of matter of fact descriptions of cynical protection of the tycoon’s relatives by any means, usually money A memoir with a clear eyed view toward the cacophony of a wealthy family with money to burn and lives to live. It is striking that this memoir came at the end of the authors life. His depiction of his father is blunt as he was a nazi sergeant and ultimately lifelong foolish spender who came down to reality by being disavowed from an epically wealthy father at a young age. This book is full of matter of fact descriptions of cynical protection of the tycoon’s relatives by any means, usually money based, in court if a situation arose. It also pulls no punches at the behavior of those that contributed to the fortune beyond the monetary realm of which he has to call forth from his mind for this memoir. I found the behaviors and political climate described to be very enlightening as well as endlessly interesting. The author, being a lifelong writer and chess master, delivers expertly understood motivations and moves with a great style. Shoutout to the translator for bringing this book into English.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    This is quite a remarkable memoir about a quite remarkable family. Not a very likeable one, however, and dysfunctional hardly begins to cover it. I certainly had sympathy for the author, the heir to this family, but given his background it’s surprising he made it through at all. It’s a multi-generational family saga covering much of the 20th century and moves between Latvia, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands, a particularly turbulent part of the world and where the legacy of WWII lives on. It This is quite a remarkable memoir about a quite remarkable family. Not a very likeable one, however, and dysfunctional hardly begins to cover it. I certainly had sympathy for the author, the heir to this family, but given his background it’s surprising he made it through at all. It’s a multi-generational family saga covering much of the 20th century and moves between Latvia, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands, a particularly turbulent part of the world and where the legacy of WWII lives on. It definitely did for the author who discovered that his father had served in the Waffen-SS, voluntarily, as a Dutchman. Politics and mixed allegiances galore, shady business practices, alcoholism, poverty and wealth, abduction, abandoned wives and children – the list goes on. The family were originally rich and well-connected but the war largely put paid to that and the extended family went on to lead a peripatetic existence forging new lives in new countries whenever circumstances demanded. Their story is often distasteful and the author’s father in particular was a truly nasty piece of work. This is not a in any way a nostalgic and melancholy memoir about growing up in tumultuous times, but an exposé of the shadier side of family life. Quite fascinating.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    The author grew up having to deal with the fact that his father was an office in the SS during WWII. He gave his son advice like, “You can get anything by force.” His grandfather was wealthy before, during, and after the war through a combination of business acumen and manipulative dealings. Although the grandfather didn't like his son being a Nazi, he still used his "Catholic brotherhood" to get his son out of jail, keep him from getting deported, and let him inherit his empire, which the autho The author grew up having to deal with the fact that his father was an office in the SS during WWII. He gave his son advice like, “You can get anything by force.” His grandfather was wealthy before, during, and after the war through a combination of business acumen and manipulative dealings. Although the grandfather didn't like his son being a Nazi, he still used his "Catholic brotherhood" to get his son out of jail, keep him from getting deported, and let him inherit his empire, which the author's father promptly screwed up. The author was a pawn in the family game, being kidnapped twice (once when his mother spirited him out of the country and once when the grandfather sent two people complete with a chloroform rag to steal him back. He didn't see his mother again for 18 years). The author bounced around from a posh living with his grandfather, to dire poverty with his mother, to low-income neglect with his father following his second kidnapping. Meanwhile, the family went through drama after drama as spouses cheated on each other, had affairs with in-laws, gave birth to illegitimate children, hid money, used drugs, etc. etc. The author said, "I grew up to be a boy with secrets: about my father in the war, about my impoverished mother and illegitimate sister in Germany, about my devoutly Catholic grandfather and his dubious activities that I learned more about over time, about my abductions, about the fact that we still preferred to speak German at Briva Latvija." He acknowledged his father was a money-lusting scam artist; that his mother didn't even bother to answer his letters once he grew old enough to try and contact him; and that money and influence were more important than justice when it came to the courts and the church. That he survived it all without becoming a mental case himself was pretty remarkable.

  13. 5 out of 5

    david

    Too many words for me. That and his testimony that he remembers clearly in this memoir of his life when he was two years old. I will not believe it. Stopped at twenty percent or so.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hillary

    So, how dysfunctional can a family get? This was a Kindle First book; I chose it for something different, as it's not a typical offering. I come away from the book thinking about how much WWII affected people in Europe, both directly and down the generations. There's also something about Europe itself, the different languages and cultures and variations of Christianity all crammed into a relatively small landmass. I'm thinking, too, about how a person's character develops. What makes people so n So, how dysfunctional can a family get? This was a Kindle First book; I chose it for something different, as it's not a typical offering. I come away from the book thinking about how much WWII affected people in Europe, both directly and down the generations. There's also something about Europe itself, the different languages and cultures and variations of Christianity all crammed into a relatively small landmass. I'm thinking, too, about how a person's character develops. What makes people so naïve and trusting? Greedy? Controlling? Or what makes a person kind? Upbringing? Are we born a certain way? The book is translated from Dutch and a fairly easy read, though some parts were more interesting than others. Sometimes, this type of memoir "reads like a novel." This one did not. There are some structural inconsistencies, but nothing too glaring. It was a fair read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steve Whichard

    Extremely interesting read. The history of a family that travels through some of the roughest times for Europe. The book gives a different perspective on the conflicts of the time through a family of characters that you find hard not to love and hate even at the same time. I found myself wanting to know more and even thankful that more details weren't available. Extremely interesting read. The history of a family that travels through some of the roughest times for Europe. The book gives a different perspective on the conflicts of the time through a family of characters that you find hard not to love and hate even at the same time. I found myself wanting to know more and even thankful that more details weren't available.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Whistlers Mom

    What did you do in the war, Daddy? Don't ask, Son. I hate all forms of political extremism and (especially) the brand of "patriotism" that teaches that a country can only be great by conquering other nations. The rise of Hitler and his Nazis and the Jewish genocide they committed was the greatest tragedy of the Twentieth Century. So I was initially resistant to this book, which I took to be a son's apology for his father's service in the German Army during WWII. I'm glad I overcame my prejudice, b What did you do in the war, Daddy? Don't ask, Son. I hate all forms of political extremism and (especially) the brand of "patriotism" that teaches that a country can only be great by conquering other nations. The rise of Hitler and his Nazis and the Jewish genocide they committed was the greatest tragedy of the Twentieth Century. So I was initially resistant to this book, which I took to be a son's apology for his father's service in the German Army during WWII. I'm glad I overcame my prejudice, because this author makes no attempt to excuse his father's actions. Instead he uses his long career as a journalist to research and tell the story of a unique European family caught up in political chaos and the world's most destructive war ever. It's a story that covers three generations and moves from The Netherlands to Latvia and all points in between. In particular, it's a story that shows how the close political, economic, and blood ties between the people of northern Europe meant that WWII pitted family members against each other. The heart doesn't recognize a border and never has. The family patriarch was Joan Munninghoff, the "Old Boss." A proud Dutchman, he moved to Latvia and became a rich man. He married a beautiful, independent Russian Countess whose family were prominent members of Riga's large German population. It was a love match that produced five children, but there was also infidelity and the clash of two strong egos. The children grew up in luxury, but with little parental affection and even less affection for each other. Frans Munninghoff was the oldest son and destined by his powerful father to carry on the family empire. He was the original "son and heir" and was sent to The Netherlands to be educated. In spite of his father's hopes, he never felt Dutch, identifying with his mother's Russian/German heritage. The Russian Revolution and the destruction of the German economy by WWI created a chaotic situation in northern Europe. White Russians, Red Russians, and German nationalists (Nazis) vied for power. They only agreed on one thing - the Jews were responsible for all their problems. The author nails it when he describes his father as "an irrational, pathetic rich kid." Frans (or Franz, as he renamed himself) claimed that he joined the Nazi military to fight Bolshevism and restore the Russian Empire. In reality, his choices had much more to do with his rebellion against his father and his desires to become a more important man. With his mother's aristocratic Russian blood, he saw himself riding Hitler's coattails to a position of power under a restored Czar. It was a plan which had little to do with "liberating" Russia and much to do with his own dreams of glory. The contrast between the wily father and his angry, inept son is fascinating by itself. The Old Boss was a born businessman, wily and a superb judge of character. He understood that business is never fully separated from politics and he knew that the secret to success in both is personal connections. From Latvian politicians to English aristocrats to Joseph Kennedy to German commanders, he found ways to use like-minded people to accomplish his goals. Frans' personality was composed of equal parts arrogance and feelings of inferiority. In the elite Waffen SS troops, he was part of the most feared, hated military force in Europe, but even there, life disappointed him. The German march into Russian turned into a disaster, as half-starved Russians beat back Germany's best-trained soldiers. Frans was left with an Iron Cross, shrapnel in his arm and leg, and stories he told only when he was drunk and only to his bored teenage son. His German military service made him despised by patriotic Dutch who had suffered under German occupation. He lacked his father's boldness and capacity for hard work and his alcoholism didn't help, either. Gullibility and greed is a bad combination for a businessman and he never came close to his ambition of becoming a wealthier man than his father. Nor was his marriage to part-Russian, part-German Wera any more successful than his parents' marriage. Alexander was the subject of a bitter custody battle; first awarded to one parent, then to the other. Incredibly, he was kidnapped and then re-kidnapped. His stories about the few months he spent in a small German town as a seven-year-old child are bizarre and unforgettable. Little boys are little boys, any time and anywhere. But the psychological toll of war and defeat on the German people is hard to comprehend. Eleven-year-old Peter was also the son of German soldiers who fought in Russia, but his brother was killed and his father horribly maimed. In war, sometimes a "survivor" is a woman with dead eyes whose son will never come home or a man strapped in a wheel-chair with an Iron Cross pinned to his chest. The Old Boss' "son and heir" survived and went on to a successful career and a happy marriage. By the end of his life, he was able to look back on both sides of his family and see their strengths and weaknesses and how their good decisions and mistakes merged to form the man he became. When the dust settles (from wars or revolutions or family feuds) there are no winners or losers. All that counts is happiness and it's deeply satisfying that this talented, thoughtful man was able to achieve it. I never felt like I was reading a history book, but this is densely packed with information about the role of northern Europeans in WWII. Sometimes books that are translated into English are stiff and didactic, but this one reads like a lively novel. The author's intelligence and understanding of human nature shine through. It's a brilliant book and I'll never forget it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jan Vranken

    Review Groene 11.12.14

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    interesting tale, ok-ly written

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anne Van wijngaarden

    Good for history nerds (I mean that in a good way)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    This is a memoir about how one European family navigated WWII and its aftermath. With a jaundiced eye, Alexander Münninghoff dispassionately chronicles the strange and often tragic behavior of his extended family. In the midst of war and devastation, they lived a privileged existence marred by greed, compromise, rebellion and duplicity. His grandfather was a wealthy businessman who fled Latvia for the Netherlands following the Russian takeover. He was passionate about his religion, his Dutch heri This is a memoir about how one European family navigated WWII and its aftermath. With a jaundiced eye, Alexander Münninghoff dispassionately chronicles the strange and often tragic behavior of his extended family. In the midst of war and devastation, they lived a privileged existence marred by greed, compromise, rebellion and duplicity. His grandfather was a wealthy businessman who fled Latvia for the Netherlands following the Russian takeover. He was passionate about his religion, his Dutch heritage, and the future of his business dynasty. He was a clever businessman always on the lookout for the next big opportunity. With little regard for virtue, he used his many powerful connections to achieve personal and business goals. His eldest son, Frans, was Alexander’s father. He clearly was a disappointment to his own father for embracing the Nazis and eschewing his Dutch heritage. Frans served in the SS and was wounded during the war. He disowned his wife and son and had an open affair with is best friend’s wife, producing a daughter from the liaison. Moreover, Frans was a total failure and a joke in business circles. His most redeeming quality seemed to have been an intense sense of loyalty to his wartime compatriot who eventually committed suicide and his drug-addicted illegitimate daughter. Following his removal from the family home, Alexander lived with his mother for a short time until he was abducted on the orders of his grandfather who saw him as the heir to the family’s business. Alexander was returned to the family home in Voorburg, where he remained separated from his mother for the rest of his life. Münninghoff shows the tragic outcome of his separation from his mother with her much diminished state following the war. The telling of the dark events in this memoir can be unsettling. Yet his descriptions of things he actually observed or experienced can be quite effective, especially his discovery of his father’s SS helmet and his own abduction. Despite an uneven narrative, Münninghoff generally seems to view the unusual behavior of his family with detachment and empathy.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Leoma Gilley

    Some people manage to come out of disfunctional family situations as successes, most do not. However, Alexander Münninghoff seems to have managed it. His grandfather, referred to as the Old Boss, seems to have been a tyrannical bully whose primary interest was making a fortune and everyone around him miserable. Alexander's father, Frans, was a misguided eldest son with only disdain for his father and all he represented. Nationalities which most of the world perceives as something concrete seem t Some people manage to come out of disfunctional family situations as successes, most do not. However, Alexander Münninghoff seems to have managed it. His grandfather, referred to as the Old Boss, seems to have been a tyrannical bully whose primary interest was making a fortune and everyone around him miserable. Alexander's father, Frans, was a misguided eldest son with only disdain for his father and all he represented. Nationalities which most of the world perceives as something concrete seem to have little relevance in this family. Originally Dutch, the Old Boss made his fortune in Latvia. When WWII broke out, he moved back to the Netherlands, but Frans joined the German SS as a translator between German and Russian. Frans' wife Wera had a Russian mother and a German father and raised in Latvia. She was sent to England to stay with a relative during the war. Alexander was born in Poland. The result of all the mix of cultures, languages and nationalities did not help this family to understand each other or themselves. The story is seen from the eyes of the grandson, Alexander. He could see the disfunction, but for much of his life was powerless to do anything about it. The tension between his parents and between his parents and the Old Boss resulted in moving from the lap of luxury to extreme poverty and kidnapping. It seems that while Alexander was always referred to as the "heir", he didn't really inherit much of anything as his relatives had destroyed much of his grandfather's empire before Alexander was of the age to inherit. The fact that he seems to have made a successful marriage and has been able to piece together the multiple strands of his family's movements and intentions in order to write this book indicates he has a good mind and lots of determination. While the family is disfunctional, the story is told in as clear a way as possible, with all the twists and turns. When reading, just be prepared to shift countries every few pages.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mrs Helen Rodbourn

    I read this book with interest as there was a lot I didn't previously know about the period in Holland but I also became increasingly frustrated with the tone. As a memoir I expected some emotional involvement from the author but his description of some of the truly dreadful actions of his father were cold and detached. This is a damning story of corruption, the dubious influence of the class sytem and the power of the catholic church in enabling the author's grandfather to amass a huge fortune I read this book with interest as there was a lot I didn't previously know about the period in Holland but I also became increasingly frustrated with the tone. As a memoir I expected some emotional involvement from the author but his description of some of the truly dreadful actions of his father were cold and detached. This is a damning story of corruption, the dubious influence of the class sytem and the power of the catholic church in enabling the author's grandfather to amass a huge fortune both during and after the war. The author seems to have an underlying admiration for the old man and barely criticises his actions or the system which he is so adept at using, despite his terrible treatment of members of his own family. The author's father Frans is clearly mentally disturbed but he is also a deeply unpleasant character who uses people without any sense of empathy. The whole book left me with an unpleasant taste in my mouth and I found that I too was losing any sympathy for the characters including the author. I would have loved to read the same story from the perspective of one of the women. Surely they can't all have been so self centred / weak /pathetic/ powerless/easily deceived as this book implies?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy B

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A story about a family with Dutch, German, and Russian roots living in Riga, Latvia up until the break out of WW2 and what follows. This is not so much a war story as it is a salacious family tell all. War profiteering, child abduction, subverting the justice system to get your SS officer son out of being prosecuted for war crimes-this story has it all! I feel like I needed an Atlas to read this though. I have no knowledge of the geography and different ethnic regions of the Baltic states, Easte A story about a family with Dutch, German, and Russian roots living in Riga, Latvia up until the break out of WW2 and what follows. This is not so much a war story as it is a salacious family tell all. War profiteering, child abduction, subverting the justice system to get your SS officer son out of being prosecuted for war crimes-this story has it all! I feel like I needed an Atlas to read this though. I have no knowledge of the geography and different ethnic regions of the Baltic states, Eastern Europe, and Russia (let alone what they were called in the 40’s) so some parts were difficult to follow and I’m sure I missed some points the author was trying to make with respect to how these different regions interact with each other (for example why x hates y, etc). This was far more engaging that I thought it was going to be, especially for a free amazing prime book. Also, there was a throw away sentence in there about how the Vatican set up Nazi escape routes to South America after the war and I can’t believe I’ve never heard this before. I mean holy shit, can that church do anything that isn’t terrible? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholi...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Hanson

    The Son and Heir is an interesting memoir about the son of a German SS Agent. The story is really about three generations, a wealthy controlling Dutch grandfather who spent much of his time in the Baltics; his son, who rebelled against his Dutch background, and joined the German SS to fight against the Russian Bolsheviks, and the grandson, a journalist who hid his father's story for most of his life. Munninghoff uses his journalistic talents to dive into his family history, and reveals it in a w The Son and Heir is an interesting memoir about the son of a German SS Agent. The story is really about three generations, a wealthy controlling Dutch grandfather who spent much of his time in the Baltics; his son, who rebelled against his Dutch background, and joined the German SS to fight against the Russian Bolsheviks, and the grandson, a journalist who hid his father's story for most of his life. Munninghoff uses his journalistic talents to dive into his family history, and reveals it in a way that is both empathetic and honest. His grandfather, whom he loved as a child, comes across as the ultimate opportunist and yet very savvy, carefully playing both sides in the war and ultimately building a fortune. His father comes across as someone who always struggled to find his place in the world and to get out from under his own father's shadow, but was never able to recreate the camaraderie or the self-importance he felt during the war. Alexander, the grandson, then is the one left to process all this history, and to find his own place and own identity in the world. More than anything, this book helps put a face to those who fought in World War II, and the costs the war exacted not only to those that lived it, but to the generations that followed.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amy GB

    The author's family contains some memorable characters - mousy Wera, his mother; troubled Frans, his father and former SS soldier; and 'The Old Boss', his greedy arch-capitalist grandfather. Themes of loss resonate all through the memoir. It's hard to tell whether it's a story about a dynasty in which World War II is only coincidental to the troubles of the family, or a story about how the war wrecked this family in the same way it wrecked continental Europe. As my heritage is Australian and Brit The author's family contains some memorable characters - mousy Wera, his mother; troubled Frans, his father and former SS soldier; and 'The Old Boss', his greedy arch-capitalist grandfather. Themes of loss resonate all through the memoir. It's hard to tell whether it's a story about a dynasty in which World War II is only coincidental to the troubles of the family, or a story about how the war wrecked this family in the same way it wrecked continental Europe. As my heritage is Australian and British, the family stories about the war and its aftermath I received are a little more removed from the utter displacement and devastation this family went through. But I did resonate a little with the characters' internal struggles of identity - are they German, Dutch or Latvian? My identity struggles have never yet determined military service or time in prison, though. The style is a little dry, and the many many supporting characters a little hard to keep track of. It's also entirely distracting and troubling that one of the author's aunts is named 'Titty', which presumably doesn't mean in Dutch/German/Russian what it means in English.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Yoursexylibrarian

    This memoir leaves many unanswered questions. I don't think this book should even be called a memoir. This book was written by a child born and raised in privilege who told the story of his grandfather and father, who basically despised one another. When it came to writing about his own life, the author just skimmed the surface, which after all the details about his grandfather and father was a huge let down. The author never talked about the impact of losing three children on his life and his m This memoir leaves many unanswered questions. I don't think this book should even be called a memoir. This book was written by a child born and raised in privilege who told the story of his grandfather and father, who basically despised one another. When it came to writing about his own life, the author just skimmed the surface, which after all the details about his grandfather and father was a huge let down. The author never talked about the impact of losing three children on his life and his marriage. That to me was strange that he wrote a memoir yet there is very little about him in the book. The SS connection in this book is way less substantial than the book description hypes it up to being. The more accurate description would have called his father, "a broken man who served in the opposition's army against his family's wishes and never moved beyond the war." The upside to this read is that I learned an incredible amount about European geography and Russian culture, food, and history.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Woods

    Interesting autobiographical story This autobiographical story of the son of an SS Nazi soldier is very interesting as the son details the many events surrounding his life. His family is a very complicated mix of pro and anti Nazi. The author has so much detail incorporated in the story that the many characters sometimes become a story within a story. All aspects of this book are extremely interesting though. This man's life is filled with rejection, emotion and dashed hopes as he relates his grand Interesting autobiographical story This autobiographical story of the son of an SS Nazi soldier is very interesting as the son details the many events surrounding his life. His family is a very complicated mix of pro and anti Nazi. The author has so much detail incorporated in the story that the many characters sometimes become a story within a story. All aspects of this book are extremely interesting though. This man's life is filled with rejection, emotion and dashed hopes as he relates his grandfather 's grand manipulations as a formidable businessman with wealth connections and a father who basically ignored him. His mother is a sad creature who he loses at an early age and reconciled with decades later. I would recommend to readers of history surrounding the rise of Nazi -is in the Baltic regions and Germany, WWI I and the decades after. It gives a picture of a child affected by the many sides to his father and grandfather's manipulation into his life.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dan Rogers

    Although very engaging and well written, this book was a difficult one for me to read. I grew up in a home with very loving parents who were completely committed to each other and to their children so it was very disturbing to read this. This story is about a family where most members of the family were more concerned with their own life and how they saw things rather than looking out for the welfare of the family as a whole. The patriarch of the family, referred to as "The Old Boss" was very su Although very engaging and well written, this book was a difficult one for me to read. I grew up in a home with very loving parents who were completely committed to each other and to their children so it was very disturbing to read this. This story is about a family where most members of the family were more concerned with their own life and how they saw things rather than looking out for the welfare of the family as a whole. The patriarch of the family, referred to as "The Old Boss" was very successful in business albeit at times by means that were shady at best and downright illegal sometimes. The eldest child, the author's father, was headstrong and cared only about what he wanted never caring about his parents, siblings, wife, or child. If I were to be anymore emotionally involved in this story I'm sure I would cry. I just don't understand how people can be so self-centered and uncaring about others, yet that is exactly what this book is all about. I find it to have been a worthwhile read just not very uplifting nor inspiring. A sad tale through and through.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    I finished this book and while it was a slow read, it was a good read. It is a true story of a boy to a Dutch father and a German mother during WWII. From a very different perspective than any book I have read on WWII before. Alexander's father hates Russia, and sees Hitler as the solution. He joins the SS and fights for Germany. When we visited The Netherlands a few years back, we went to a museum called the "The Dutch Resistance Museum" and it was very interesting. https://www.verzetsmuseum.or I finished this book and while it was a slow read, it was a good read. It is a true story of a boy to a Dutch father and a German mother during WWII. From a very different perspective than any book I have read on WWII before. Alexander's father hates Russia, and sees Hitler as the solution. He joins the SS and fights for Germany. When we visited The Netherlands a few years back, we went to a museum called the "The Dutch Resistance Museum" and it was very interesting. https://www.verzetsmuseum.org/museum/.... It showed the perspective from many different people and how some fought against the Germans, and some fought with the Germans. Families were torn apart. It opened my eyes to see that in hindsight, we can see how evil Hitler was, but it was not necessarily so easy to see at the time when you were living in it. This book moved slowly at times, but I actually felt the end was rushed a bit and sort of wanted to know more about his life afterwards.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael Charles Yett

    This was a great story. I was saddened at the end to hear the author had passed away this year of 2020. This one jumped around a little and was somewhat confusing at times. I reread the story and it became clearer to me. I couldn't help but think about the events of this author's life. It always amazes me how I get these stories that could relate to a time I shared in close proximity of the author in Germany in the early 80's. There is plenty of imagery here of a very harsh period during a time This was a great story. I was saddened at the end to hear the author had passed away this year of 2020. This one jumped around a little and was somewhat confusing at times. I reread the story and it became clearer to me. I couldn't help but think about the events of this author's life. It always amazes me how I get these stories that could relate to a time I shared in close proximity of the author in Germany in the early 80's. There is plenty of imagery here of a very harsh period during a time of conflict and war. It opens up the eyes when it comes to how folks can quickly assimilate in certain situations. Having lived in Germany for a few years and as a flight engineer on a Chinook Helicopter I saw a lot of Eastern Europe and even flew to England. To imagine that those places just shy of 40 years had changed so much from the war torn countries they once were. This is a great story and it helps to know that it is based on true events.

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