Picks and Pans Review: Götz and Meyer

updated 12/19/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

by David Albahari

REVIEWED BY FRANCINE PROSE

CRITIC'S CHOICE

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When the anonymous narrator of Albahari's haunting new novel learns that many of his Jewish relatives were killed during WWII, he becomes obsessed with the desire to understand the men who helped murder them.

The book takes its title from the names of two SS officers, Götz and Meyer, whose job required them to pick up truckloads of Jews from a concentration camp in a former fairgrounds in Belgrade.

Afterward they would drive across the river, where the truck would be filled with lethal gas, and the dead would be hastily buried. As the protagonist, a teacher, revisits these horrific events, the novel illuminates a relatively little-known aspect of the Holocaust: the extermination of the Serbian Jews. And Albahari gives us a dazzling meditation on history, memory, identity and the nature of evil—and on the hearts and minds of two ordinary men who cared more about their truck than about the lives of thousands of innocent human beings.

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