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Let Me Go

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  2,203 ratings  ·  300 reviews
A powerful memoir in which Helga Schneider describes her relationship and final encounter with her mother, a former SS guard at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In 1998, Schneider is summoned to her 90 year-old mother's nursing home in Vienna. The last time she has seen her mother is 27 years earlier. Then, she had asked her to try on her treasured SS uniform, and wanted to give her sev

Audiobook, 0 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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Steven Godin
Before getting to the actual book, I was staggered to learn Helga Schneider's mother, a truly wicked woman and member of the Waffen-SS, served only a six-year prison term for minor war crimes, which, to rub salt into the wounds of the Jews, was reduced down to the fact of complete cooperation with an Allied investigating commission. Six years!, minor crimes?, what went on within the walls of Birkenau can hardly be seen as minor. OK, so she was only a guard, and nowhere near as bad as some of the ...more
Lisa Vegan
I finished this unsuual memoir in less than 24 hours.

Sparse, powerful, and compelling.

I finished it the evening before Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is fitting. (The internationally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom Hashoah. In 2020 the date it falls on is April 21.)

This is a raw first person account. The crux is t
Canadian Reader
In 1941, when Helga Schneider was four and her brother Peter not even two years of age, they were abandoned by their mother. Their father, Stefan, was on the front, fighting for Hitler at the time, and an aunt and their paternal grandmother stepped in to care for the children. Soon after, Stefan remarried. Helga was not to see her mother, Traudi, for another thirty years. From Bologna (where she’d moved in 1963 as a sixteen year old) Helga travelled with her young son to Vienna to see Traudi who ...more
Jeanette (Again)
At times it was difficult to continue reading this book. I stayed with it because of the mother-daughter connection. It would be hard not to feel revulsion toward oneself, knowing you were spawned by such a despicable creature. It sickens me just to think I'm a member of the same species as Helga Schneider's mother. We're not really the same species, though. I am homo sapiens and she was homo monsterus horribilis.

It's bad enough that a woman would abandon her two small children without hesitati
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers Interested in Holocaust Perpetrators
Shelves: holocaust, memoir, wwii
Some books are difficult to read because their subject matter is so disturbing that the reader feels traumatized by the horrific events she sees chronicled before her. And some books are difficult to read because they were obviously difficult to write, every word an agony for the author. Such books are written with their creator's blood, and the reader, who is literally consuming the suffering of another human being, feels queasy in the process. Helga Schneider's memoir, so engrossing as to be a ...more
Jan 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Brutal. Simply brutal. I listened to it on CD and had to stop listening several times. First, there's the reality. The mother was an SS guard at birkenau concentration camp. The book includes details of atrocities to Jewish men, women and children that are very difficult to hear. I listened because I never want to forget.

Unfortunately, more difficult to hear was the daughter's voice. I don't mean the woman who was reading the book, not that voice. No, it was the daughter's writing, her attitude,
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An important, emotionally intense and difficult book, which should be requisite reading for anyone trying to understand what happened in Germany during the Nazi era. It is, basically, the portrait that a daughter makes of her own mother, an unrepentant and ferocious jewish-hater Nazi who, decades after the fall of the regime, still hangs on to her despicable beliefs. The frankness and discomfort of the author are heartbreaking. She tries to reach out to her mother when the latest is gravely ill, ...more
May 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a deeply compelling and disturbing chronicle of a daughter's final visit with the mother who abandoned her decades before in order to become a prison guard at Auschwitz. The author wrestles deeply during the visit as she seeks to understood what possibly could have motivated her mother to make the choices she did. She weaves in her personal history as she attempts to relate to and reconcile with the senile stranger she hasn't seen more than a handful of times in 30 years. She probes her ...more
Kelsey Hanson
This is a short, but incredibly intense book about the author's attempt to connect with her former SS mother before she dies. My heart goes out to the author. This book was hard to get through at times, I can't imagine living it. The author's mother is completely unrepentant about her actions during WW II and a complete believer devoted to Hitler's ideologies. The author struggles to deal with both the abandonment of her mother in an especially challenging time period as well as coming terms to ...more
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a strange read. I felt conflicted most of the time when reading this account. The style of writing is nothing special, but the content is quite haunting, though not in a good way. This is the account of an obviously confused and troubled daughter who has been abandoned by her mother when a small child so that the mother could serve Hitler in the SS. Helga (the daughter, and writer), though in her 50s now, has understandably been tormented by imaginings of what her mother did and saw as a gu ...more
I’ve read many books about the Holocaust, but never one like this or from this perspective. Schneider’s mother was an SS guard at multiple concentration camps including Auschwitz II-Birkenau, where she spent the majority of her time. Her mother left the family when the children were young to voluntarily be a guard at the camp. She committed countless atrocities and enjoyed it. Even in her old age, she maintained her hatred and was unrepentant.

Schneider struggles with her mother’s existence and
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a gripping and heart-wrenching memoir, that "spoke" to me on several levels. The author was born in Poland in 1937, and grew up in Berlin. When she was only 4, her mother abandoned the family to join the Nazi SS cause. She worked in the concentration camps, assisting in the work of genocide. Her daughter learns the terrible truth years later and spends decades of her life with no contact with the mother, until learning that she is becoming senile and weakening in a nursing home. She relu ...more
Paul Ataua
A woman goes to visit her mother in hospital for the second time in nearly sixty years, a mother who voluntarily abandoned her to become a SS guard at Auschwitz. Intriguing premise, apparently based on true events, and certainly an assemblage of many horrific and undeniable facts, but it never felt like a real encounter to me. It seemed more like a uncomfortably fictionalized account, and one in which, towards the later stages, I felt my attention focusing more and more on the daughter ‘interrog ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: precinct-81
A rather unsettling book. It kept me the whole time balancing between sympathizing and detesting the MC.
An haunting story, but the writing and the way it was told didn’t really appeal to me. Possibly the awful facts that it gives testimony of and the figure of the mother (cruel and senile; manipulative and longing for love) makes it a hard book to digest.
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of all of the books about WWII and the Holocaust, this is the most unusual perspective I have read. I have not ever really thought of or considered the children of those who fought in the War... on the other side. Surely socially acceptable perceptive is a matter of who wins or who dictates? I am a child of a man who served in the US Army and then in the US Navy during WWII.

To be a child of a person whose integrity is strongly aligned with the beliefs of the SS who did unspeakable things to men
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: four-star
Rather than the lengthy memoir I anticipated, this is more an essay documenting the authors conversations with the mother who abandoned her as a young child to work as an SS guard during the Holocaust.

This made for difficult reading in parts, chiefly due to the mother’s obvious sadistic, egotistical nature. Following a thirty year estrangement, Helga is persuaded to visit her ailing mother in her care home in an attempt to gain some answers about her past. Her mother was ultimately convicted an
I just had to read this book because the premise is so unbelievable. The author's mother voluntarily abandoned her husband and children to become a Nazi guard at Auschwitz. It's very difficult to believe someone would do that. The author's mother is an absolutely unlikable human being. Besides the horrible things she did to her family and with her life, she's just a nasty woman. I don't understand how the nursing home where she lived was so accepting of her, almost cherishing her. They put up wi ...more
May 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The searing, heartwrenching, courageous, and horrifying account of a daughter's second visit in 57 years to her German mother who abandoned her when she was four years old to join Hitler's SS. Interspersed with a telling of the events of the visit are the author's memories of her childhood and of her previous visit to her mother in 1971. I recognized many German attitudes and behaviors from my own experiences with growing up with a German mother who lived through World War II, and the book has e ...more
Eva Leger
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Eva by: myself
This is a great book- it's the story of a little girl who was abandoned at a very young age along with her small brother and father by her mother. Her mother decided she'd join the SS and went to work in the camps. I can't say it's the best book on the subject as a whole but it's a different perspective than I've read before and it accounts her mother still at a very odl age, not showing a bit of remorse for her actions. In fact, her mother shows the exact opposite even very near death. This goe ...more
Jun 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A true story about a young girl whose mother was active extrremely committed to the Nazi party, so much so that she essentially abandoned her husband and young children because of it, joining the SS and becoming a concentration camp guard. This narrative is written by her daughter and tells some of her mother's story and also their final meeting at a nursing home, nearly 60 years after she left in 1941. Her mother's lack of remorse is chilling. The language in the book is a bit stilted at time, ...more
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heart-rending and gut-wrenching.

How do you confront the fact your mother was a Nazi concentration camp guard? How do you reconcile that she abandoned you and your baby brother because her love for the Nazi regime was greater than her love for you? How do you live with the knowledge she has no remorse or regret for her acts and indeed, proclaims pride and glee over her actions in Ravensbrück and Auschwitz?

Helga Schneider has not seen her mother Traudi in 20 years. When she is contacted by her mo
"I've lost. I've lost again." I agree. She got no answers. It seems the times she saw her mother were a waste of time because so many questions were left unanswered! I want answers! So yeah, I feel that leaving yet another time with nothing answered is a loss. I feel she wasted so many years feeling this anger or mixed emotions or whatever you want to call it due to her mother abandoning them that she missed that chance when she might have gotten some answers because she let so many years go by ...more
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am half way through this book and not sure I am going to continue.
Yes, it's interesting/horrifying to hear a first hand account from someone who is (still) loyal to Hitler.
Yes, it's an abandoned daughter who is trying to understand her mother's leaving.

Mostly? It's an obsessed daughter who is trying to vilify her mother to make it "ok" that she left. She pushes a 90 year old woman, who has had to live with her actions, and yeah, sticks with the whole 'what I did for the Fuhrer, I did because
Anna Dorywalska
I started reading this book on the floor of Imperial War Museum bookshop. Affected by an exhibition I just saw, I wandered to the shop and this piece caught my eye.

The story, of course, is heartbreaking. Helga decides to visit her mother and confront her about her past as a Nazi SS guard at concentration camps. The book recalls conversations that took place that day and describes crimes committed by Schneider's mother and her "comrades" during WWII. What's so horrible for the author, and the re
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWII buffs and memoir-lovers
I'm seeing you again after twenty-seven years, Mother, and wondering whether in all that time you have understood how much damage you did to your children. I didn't sleep a wink last night. It's almost daylight now; I've opened the shutters. A smoky veil of light is brightening above the roofs of Vienna.

I'm going to see you again today, Mother, but what will I feel? What can a daughter feel for a mother who refuse to be a mother so that she could join Heinrich Himmler's evil organization?

Fliss Blanch
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me cry - really, really cry. Helga Schneider was born to a woman who abandoned Helga when she was four years old to devote herself to Hitler's regime. She became an extermination guard in Ravensbruck and became involved in the ''experiments'' of the prisoners. Helga did not see her mother again until 1971 but found herself feeling revulsion when her mother insisted that she try on her SS uniform. Helga decided to have a final meeting with her mother in 1998 to find out if they sti ...more
L.n. Drunkengoth
Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hja-research
It's difficult to express how much I thought of this book.

The final meeting between a woman and her mother who is still the strong manipulative woman she once was, but also confused and disorientated by the ravages of dementia. The woman was abandoned by her mother at the age of 4 for the Waffen SS, treated unkindly by her stepmother, and still desperately seeking a connection that has never, and will never, be there.

I was left, just as the author appeared to be, wondering if the mother was tell
Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am struggling to come to an exact rating to give this book. I think I will go with a 2.5-3.0 star rating.
I found that I wanted to throw the book many times while reading it, but stuck it out to see if there was any redemption in the end.

This book is a memoir of Helga Schneider. She was abandoned by her mother during World War II to join the Nazi SS. Her mother ultimately became a guard at various concentration camps, including Auschwitz. This is the story of her last meeting with her estranged
Should I be ashamed if, every now and again, instinct, my instinct as a daughter, gets the better of morality, of history, of justice and humanity?

The failed story of a mother and a daughter. A non-story.

No, I don't hate her. It's just that I don't love her.

This is confusing. It's heavy and depressing on so many levels.
Abandonment, forgiveness, war and evil...
Helga Schneider's mother leaves her in 1941 to follow her beliefs in the Third Reich. They next meet in 1971 and then again in 1998, the
Let Me go by Helga Schneider. It's a short book 165 pages, but vey intense as well. Helga and her brother and father were left when her mother decided to abandon the family in favor of going for advancement in the Nazi party and the SS, sentiments which she held to her dying day in complete contrast to her daughter's. The meeting and the conflict was totally painful to the daughter. The woman was intelligent, a fanatic, and a manipulator especially where her own wants were concerned. No one was ...more
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Nasce nel 1937 in Slesia (territorio tedesco che dopo la seconda guerra mondiale sarà assegnato alla Polonia). Nel 1941 Helga e suo fratello Peter, rispettivamente di 4 anni e 19 mesi, con il padre già al fronte, vengono abbandonati a Berlino dalla madre, che arruolatasi come ausiliaria nelle SS diverrà guardiana al campo femminile di Ravensbruck e successivamente di Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Helga e Pet

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“Durante una pausa en las intervenciones, se me acercó una mujer, superviviente de Birkenau. Me miró fijamente a los ojos y luego explotó a quemarropa:

—¡La odio!

Por un instante me quedé sin habla.

—¿Por qué? ¿Por qué me odia? —le pregunté cuando me hube recuperado.

—Porque su madre era celadora en Birkenau y creo que la recuerdo. Era una rubia de mano de hierro que un día me arrancó los incisivos con una porra. Era así, ¿no? Una rubia fuerte... —Me miraba con una agresividad cargada de resentimiento.

—No... no lo sé —balbucí.

—¿No sabe si su madre era rubia o no? ¡Tendrá una foto, algo! ¡Quiero saberlo, quiero saber si aquella rubia de Birkenau era su madre!”
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