Posts Tagged ‘Hubert Mingarelli’

‘A Meal in Winter’ by Hubert Mingarelli – A Provocative Novel of World War II


‘A Meal in Winter’ by Hubert Mingarelli (2012) – 138 pages Translated from the French by Sam Taylor

Why do people read Holocaust literature when there are so many more pleasant things to read about? Because some of us want to face the worst there is in human beings, the bottom dregs of atrocious human behavior and perhaps somehow deal with it. It is just not possible to sweep the deaths of over six million people under the carpet and pretend it never happened.

In ‘A Meal in Winter’ three German soldiers who are in Poland are sent out on a harsh cold day in winter to hunt for Jewish people who are hiding and to bring any that they find back to their camp. They specifically requested this mission of their base commander because otherwise they would have had to stay in camp and shoot the Jewish people who were already captured.

We explained to him that we would rather do the hunting than the shootings. We told him we didn’t like the shootings; that doing it made us feel bad at the time and gave us bad dreams at night. When we woke in the morning, we felt down as soon as we start thinking about it, and if it went on like this, soon we wouldn’t be able to stand it at all – and if it ended up making us ill, we’d be no use to anybody. We would not have spoken like this, so openly and frankly to another commander. He was a reservist like we were , and he slept on a camp bed too. But the killings had aged him more than they had us.”

They do capture one Jewish person who is hiding in the woods. One of the soldiers notices an embroidered star on the winter hat that the Jew is wearing.

Because if you want to know what it is that tormented me, and that torments me to this day, it’s seeing that kind of thing on the clothes of the Jews we’re going to kill: a piece of embroidery, coloured buttons, a ribbon in the hair. I was always pierced by those thoughtful maternal displays of tenderness.”

Then to pass the rest of the day they go into an abandoned house of which there were many in Poland during the German occupation. The three soldiers will spend the rest of the day in the house since they have done their duty already by capturing a Jew. They lock up the Jew in the pantry and then start a fire in the furnace of this bitterly cold house by breaking up some of the furniture.

They decide to prepare a makeshift meal with whatever food they can come up with. Another Polish guy shows up at the house as they are preparing this meal. In order to get enough fire to heat the meal properly they must burn more and more of the furniture.

This novel is a strong attempt to watch this atrocity from the viewpoint of the perpetrators. Some of the perpetrators were gung-ho with the German high command; others may have been only reluctantly following orders.

This is a simple but moving story.


Grade:   A


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