The Journey of Marcel Grob
by Philippe Collin and Sébastien Goethals
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Pub Date 15 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 15 Oct 2022
In the dead of night, eighty-three-year-old Marcel Grob is sequestered by an investigating judge who questions him about his past. Particularly beginning on June 28, 1944, the day when “Marzell,” like ten thousand of his German-speaking peers from the French borderland province of Alsace, became a member of the Nazis’ infamous Waffen SS.
But did the teenager volunteer, or was he conscripted by the Nazis? Was he a “Malgré-nous,” one of those forced to comply, or was he a war criminal? To establish the truth of his troubled past, Marcel Grob will have to revisit painful memories as an adolescent forced to fight in Italy with the sinister Reichsführer division.
Determined to prove his innocence, Marcel begins the story of a long journey into night.
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"The Malgre-Nous: Men From Alsace and Lorraine Conscripted 'Against Their Will into the "Wehrmacht'." "Alsatians born between 1870 and 1918 were of German nationality, whereas those born before or after that period were of French nationality, at least until 1942."
-Compulsory military service began for Alsatians.
-Intimidation tactics were put into place to prevent desertion or disavowal of citizenship.
-Waffen SS "grabs" Alsatian conscripts to fill manpower insufficiencies.
In 2oo9, Monsieur Marcel Grob, now 83 years old, was arrested and brought before examining magistrate, Judge Tonelli. Grob would be questioned, his responses noted, and presented in conjunction with Judge Tonelli's recommendations to the Corte Verita Tribunal. The families of victims of WWII appointed this special court to judge the last Nazi war criminals. What follows is an historical fiction account of one such Waffen SS soldier.
Marzell Grob claimed that he was never Waffen SS. "I spent the whole war at my parents' farm in Alsace. I was fifteen." Not so! Judge Tonelli produced Grob's Military ID indicating that he was a machine fitter [maschinenschlosser] for the Waffen SS. According to the judge, "this booklet is the irrefutable proof of your SS past...Contrary to the Wehrmacht, you had to volunteer to join the Waffen SS." Grob's contention was that a voluntary enlistee would have FRW [Freiwilligen] on his Military ID. His ID was not stamped with this designation.
Over a period of eight hours, Grob recounted, for "the record", his time served in the Waffen SS. "No more speaking French at all, Das ist Verboten!" His blood type was tattooed under his left arm, serving a two-fold purpose. In case of injury, SS got priority. If captured and identified as SS by the Allies, it spelled certain death. The different places Grob was posted were reflected on his SS-Soldbuch, the Military ID. Repatriated after the war, he was receiving a pension from the French Republic as a war invalid. But, had Grob been victimized by the German War Machine? Was he shocked and shaken by what he seemingly was forced to participate in? A refusal to follow orders would have had repercussions meted out to his family.
"The Journey of Marcel Grob" was written by Philippe Collin and Sebastien Goethals. The artwork drawn by Goethals provided graphic scenes of the cost of war with very powerfully, detailed images rendered in sepia. The informative Afterwood by Christian Ingrao, clearly and concisely discussed the History of Nazism. The tome is dedicated "To all the young people of Europe". An excellent, thought provoking read.
Thank you Naval Institute Press, Dead Reckoning and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
*Thanks to the Naval Institute Press for giving me the ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
The Journey of Marcel Grob is an interesting tale based on Marcel Grob's (Philippe Collin's great-uncle) lived experience during WWII. He's one of the hundreds of Alsatian young men who were forcebly conscripted into the Waffen SS in 1944 and like so they had to fight for Germany and be part of the war crimes their superiors ordered them to commit.
While the parts of 83 year old Marcel Grob being interrogated by the Judge Tonelli about his past so his responses be recorded to be sent to the Corte Verita reads quite caricaturesque; Grob's accounts of his time as a Waffen SS are truly engrossing by showing the different type of characters that were part, voluntarily or not, of Nazi's elite army. Some characters are portrayed as full evil, others as victims of propaganda and hate towards the soviets, whereas others are most in the grey area by not being downright criminals but holding an idiology that makes them being part of the SS Death Machine nevertheless. Which makes this a thought-provoking read. Grob himself, although hating his everyday life with the germans, he couldn't help fraternize with one of his Untersturmführers and makes decisions that might put his affiliations in question.
The art by Sebastien Goethals has a classic comic book artstyle that works well. The stylistic choice of coloring the past in sepia is also a great detail that adds a dream-like feeling to Grob's journey, though the real dream might be the interactions between Grob and the Judge.
Overall it was a great read.
P.D. The AGAT Films company made a trailer of this book for the french edition. It's worth watching!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKCFOtPPzHI
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