Dr Robert Griesinger, a low-ranking Nazi official and SS Officer stationed in Prague in the final years of the Second World War, entered the life of British historian Daniel Lee quite unexpectedly. It began with an antique armchair, taken in for repair by a Czech émigré living in Amsterdam, unaware that sewn into the seat cushion was a stash of personal documents covered in swastikas. Lee’s new book The SS Officer’s Armchair tells two intertwined stories. One story is the life of Dr Griesinger, an ambitious young lawyer from Stuttgart who joined the Gestapo, served in the Wehrmacht, and became a Holocaust perpetrator – a ‘desk murder’ – in Prague. The other story is of the uncovering of the life of ‘an ordinary Nazi’, tracing how a historian accesses and uncovers new material, deals with ‘wilful forgetting’, and how disturbing revelations reverberate in the lives of generations to come.


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