Review of The End of Law: A Novel of Hitler’s Germany by Therese Down


Genre: Historical Fiction/Holocaust



In 1933 Berlin, Hedda Schroeder is wealthy, naive, and caught up in her superficial life of jazz clubs, dating, and fashion. She dates two men: Karl Muller, a medical student and engineer, who bores her; and Walter Gunther, who is attractive, charming, and ambitious in his mysterious work as a newly hired SS officer.

In 1940, Hedda is married with two children to Walter, who is abusive in both his marriage and political work. Hedda also reconnects with Karl, as he and her husband work together as SS officers within the secret T4 euthanasia programme–its mission to kill those unworthy to live, including those with physical and mental illnesses.

This dark, fast moving narrative is informative and powerful in graphically detailing some of the horrors within the T4 euthanasia programme. It captures “adult material” that is not always easy to read, yet very important to remember and take as a warning.

The characters respond differently under the pressure of their circumstances–but each in a very human way. I especially enjoyed Hedda’s transformation from self-absorbed to aware and courageous. I enjoyed the end-note that Karl is loosely based on a real person. And I was challenged to consider the depth of evil, and the ethical and practical responsibilities of those who recognize it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Lion Hudson.