Monday, November 14, 2011

Historical Fiction Virtual Tour Stop: Shadows Walking by Douglas Skopp

Title: Shadows Walking
Author: Douglas Skopp
Publisher: Create Space
Publish Date: December 21, 2010
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like historical fiction.
  • You like the WWII time period.
  • You like books that make you see new points of view.
What's the Story?:

From "Johann Brenner, an idealistic physician and ardent German nationalist, has joined the Nazi Party and willingly participated in its "crimes against humanity." His Jewish childhood friend, Philipp Stein, has also become a doctor. Their lives inevitably intersect until their last, fateful meeting. After the war, Brenner, with stolen papers and a new name, has become a janitor in the courthouse where the Nuremberg Trials are being held. Hoping to "heal himself" and begin a new life with his estranged wife, he decides that he must write her a letter telling what he has done--and why.  "

My Two Cents:

The premise of this book is one that I haven't come across too often in historical fiction. Skopp looks at WWII from the point of view of a German doctor who becomes a Nazi and actually ends up working with the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele, the doctor who performed many despicable and heinous experiments on Jews and other groups of people that the Nazis deemed a threat to Germany.

Skopp doesn't seek to excuse Dr. Brenner's behavior but to understand his behavior and why he did what he did. Johann doesn't like what's happening to Germany. Money is worth nothing. There aren't really jobs. When a friend of his suggests he reads Hitler's Mein Kampf, he does so grudgingly but thinks that maybe Hitler is onto something. There's only one thing, his best friend, Phillipp, is Jewish. Brenner doesn't know what to believe. He's sucked into the Nazi movement though.

This book sucked me right in. The Holocaust is still something that I have a hard time thinking about. It's unbelievable that one group of people could kill other groups of people so systematically. This book goes into some detail of the type of experiments that Mengele performed. They are absolutely monstrous and it's hard to see how even if the Nazis hated Jews and the other singled out groups so much that they could perform such horrible experiments on other human beings! This book definitely tugged on my emotions a lot.

I was not very happy with the ending. We don't really get to find out what happens to Brenner. We can imagine but it would have been nice to find out for sure. The author's point could have been to only show Brenner's sadness over what he played a part in, I'm not sure. That being said, this is still a great read and one that I will remember for a long time.

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, November 7th
Review at Impressions in Ink
Thursday, November 10th
Review at Small World Reads
Monday, November 14th
Review at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, November 17th
Review at The Book Garden
Monday, November 21st
Author Interview at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, November 24th
Review at Confessions of a Book Hoarder 
Monday, November 28th
Author Guest Post at Confessions of a Book Hoarder


  1. I've really been reading a lot of fiction from this era lately. I may read this one, too, but I'm not sure. It sounds pretty good, but it also sounds a little depressing and maybe difficult to get through. Thanks for pointing it out.

  2. Thank you so much for your positive and engaging review of my novel, Shadows Walking. I know it presents painful information. I have done what I could to keep as much of the atrocities "off stage" as possible. But Shadows Walking is about what makes one man, a well-intentioned, intelligent man, choose to become a Nazi doctor and commit those atrocities. I could not have left them out.

    Yes, book's ending is challenging. I meant it to be. After wrestling with many other possible endings, I have chosen this one--hoping it will stimulate readers to further reflection on the issues I raise in the novel.

    Before I retired, I was a professor of European history for nearly forty years, with a particular focus on Germany. My novel is based on extensive archival research in Germany and England. As an historian, I know what happened to most of the Nazi doctors after the war: they faded into the shadows, eventually resurfaced, resumed their practices and died in their beds, often with praise for their dedication to their patients. That would have been the most historically accurate ending to my novel. An entirely opposite, fictional ending was also a possibility: Brenner goes to the gallows for his crime, full of remorse and self-loathing. But as a novelist, I felt it would be irresponsible to give my readers a simple and pat, one-size-fits-all solution to the problems my novel raises about human behavior.

    Brenner does what Nazi doctors did. He also begins to realize that his actions were evil, and why. That in itself may be a large dose of fiction, but I want to show him to be more than a cardboard caricature. So I have described how his choices led to his actions,the evil ones as well as those inspired by his remorse. The reader by that point must know in his or her heart what should happen I say, it is challenging, and I meant it to be.

    To be honest, I would rather that the reader had come to this point by himself or herself, without your warning about the ending. But now that you have warned, I am still encouraged that others will find reason to follow Brenner's choices, all of them, and come to their own understanding.

    Again, I am indeed grateful for your review and your sensitivity to the issues I raise. I hope others will find Shadows Walking worthwhile, too.

    With every good wish and my sincere appreciation, Douglas R. Skopp

  3. @lsl_scrapper The book is not depressing. It's realistic and you really get attached to some of the characters in the book. I felt more of an overwhelming want to find out what happened to Brenner. You should give this one a try!

  4. @Douglas R. Skopp Thank you so much for stopping by! I think my unhappiness with the ending really speaks to how engaging the book is though. I wasn't looking for a happy ending but I became so invested in finding out where Brenner went from the end that I wasn't quite ready for the book to end. I think it's a good thing when you aren't ready for a book to end!

  5. Thanks again, Meg, for your encouraging words. It's great to know that you weren't ready for Shadows Walking to end. If I knew I had enough time left to do a good job, I would consider a sequel--tentatively titled, "Helga's Story" -- in which I would describe Helga Brenner's life alongside her husband's, before and after 1945 and the end of the war in Germany. With every good wish to you and your visitors, sincerely,
    Doug Skopp
    P.S. There are many positive reviews of Shadows Walking that echo yours, for which I am grateful, at . And a fellow blogger, Amy at has given a whole week to my novel, including guest posts (2) and interview, plus her review.

  6. This is a book I will be reading. It is interesting to see how someone can gradually slide into a behavior that they would have thought unlikely or abhorrent earlier. It sounds like Mr. Skopp has done an excellent job of giving us this insight.


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