Title: Hadamar: The House of Shudders
Author: Jason K. Foster
Published: June 1st 2019
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars
A bastard, a shame, a national disgrace.
Nazi Germany is ruled by Hitler’s barbaric policies of racial cleansing. Ingrid Marchand’s only sin was to be born black.
Horrifying institutions like Hadamar are where the undesirables – including the mentally and physically disabled and children – are systematically tortured, gassed and executed. It is where Ingrid is humiliated and brutalised and will encounter a depth of hatred the world has never seen before.
On the brink of starvation, can Ingrid survive the horrors of her incarceration and help bring her tormentors to justice?
Hadamar is a gripping tale of survival in a world of hatred, horror and insanity.
‘As World War II loomed, Hitler authorised the implantation of Aktion T-4, a eugenics program designed to rid Germany of unwanted or undesirable citizens. The program’s headquarters were in Berlin, at number 4 Tiergartenstrasse, but its day-to-day operations took place in various institutions around the country, including the southern town of Hadamar.’
Hadamar: The House of Shudders, written by Jason K. Foster, author, poet, journalist and history teacher, is the author’s first foray into historical fiction for a young adult audience. It is a powerful, shocking and incredibly moving account, using the narration of a young girl of mixed descent, who finds herself in the centre of one of Nazi Germany’s most horrific policies, the cruel institutionalisation of the disabled. Hadamar: The House of Shudders reminds us of the strength of the human spirit to survive in the face of incredible adversity.
Hadamar: The House of Shudders introduces chief narrator Ingrid Marchand, a young girl living in Germany during the rise of Nazism. Ingrid is of mixed racial descent and it is her African appearance that enables her to become a target of one of Germany’s most cruel policies during the war. A product of racial prejudice, Ingrid becomes a target for both public scorn and persecution. Eventually, Ingrid is rounded up and taken to a facility, where she is forcibly sterilised. Soon after, Ingrid is locked up from society and her family in Hadamar, a specialised facility for the mentally ill and physically disabled. Hadamar is a place of true nightmares; patients are subjected to cruel medical procedures, starved and gassed. Ingrid is lucky to fall on the protection of a Doctor during her time in Hadamar. However, Ingrid’s time at Hadamar is precarious, and in order to guarantee her survival, she must summon all the strength she can to live. When Ingrid crosses paths with a German soldier convalescing in Hadamar, love sparks in this hostile environment. But Ingrid and her fellow inmates continue to face further hardship, as starvation and illness takes hold. Eventually, when the Americans liberate Hadamar, Ingrid is called upon as a witness to ensure that justice is achieved for all those who passed through the doors of Hadamar.
Hadamar: The House of Shudders is a 2019 Big Sky Publishing young adult novel, released by author Jason K. Foster, who has previously published books in the crime and history genres. Although intended for a young adult audience, I viewed Hadamar: The House of Shudders as an adult reader and I feel I got a lot of value from this book. I do need to issue a trigger warning for Hadamar: The House of Shudders, there are a number of graphic images and detailed passages that outline the cruel torture of the many victims of Hadamar. There were moments where I had to stop, rest, take a breath and return to this book when I was ready. It brought on many feelings including anger, dismay, regret, sickness and sadness. I have hope that this book will go the distance and work as a symbol of understanding, so that an event of this magnitude will never happen again in our existence.
Hadamar: The House of Shudders is divided into sixteen chapters, with an opening prologue and an epilogue. To help my basic high school level German language understanding only, a translation of many key phrases that appear at various points in the novel is included at the end. I did find Hadamar itself completely fascinating and it had me trawling through on an internet search while I was reading this novel. I was definitely hungry for more facts about this institution, as I had zero knowledge about this facility prior to reading Jason K. Foster’s novel. The book is told in a first person style narration, crossed with memoir format. Hadamar: The House of Shudders came across as extremely truthful, but also personalised, so we see the very human side to this horrific chapter in human history. It disappoints me yet again that I had no awareness of this institution and its practices. This book comes as a stark warning that we should never forget the atrocities of war, so that it may never be repeated again.
Hadamar: The House of Shudders is an essential textbook history in the guise of a young adult novel. The graphic content at times will hard to read, but there is no need to hide from history, this happened, we must knowledge it, share it and help to inform future generations of this dark chapter in our history books.
Hadamar: The House of Shudders by Jason K. Foster was published on June 1st 2019 by Big Sky Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
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* I wish to thank Big Sky Publishing and Books On Tour for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.