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The Son and Heir: A Memoir

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  6,707 ratings  ·  346 reviews
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
Kindle Edition, 279 pages
Published August 1st 2020 (first published October 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  6,707 ratings  ·  346 reviews

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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
Mrs. Moira McGeough
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Scott J Pearson
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
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
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 ...more
Sep 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-read
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.
Andrew Howdle
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jul 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dallas Ashbay
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was ok

Dry, brittle recounting of a self-serving, quarreling family. The reviews claimed this reads like a novel. It does not. Disappointed.
Tim Dailey
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jul 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
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.
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked 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 ...more
Jul 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
Steve Whichard
Oct 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
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. ...more
Whistlers Mom
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan Vranken
Dec 12, 2014 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Review Groene 11.12.14
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
interesting tale, ok-ly written
Anne Van wijngaarden
Good for history nerds (I mean that in a good way)
Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Leoma Gilley
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mrs Helen Rodbourn
Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeff Hanson
Nov 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Amy GB
Jul 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, own, home
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
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
Cindy Woods
Jul 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Dan Rogers
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Aug 27, 2020 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Michael Charles Yett
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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Alexander Münninghoff was een Nederlands journalist. Van 1974 tot 2007 werkte hij voor de Haagsche Courant. Münninghoff heeft veel artikelen en boeken over de schaaksport geschreven. In 1983 won hij de Prijs voor de Dagbladjournalistiek en in 2015 de Libris Geschiedenis Prijs voor zijn boek De stamhouder.

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