Ascension Series, Book 1: Ascension by Max Overton (Historical: Holocaust)

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Ray Simmons for Readers' Favorite
Jun 23, 2014
Ascension by Max Overton is the story of Konrad Wengler, a German Jew "passing" as a German who isn't Jewish in the Germany of the early and middle years of the twentieth century. Ascension is a powerful and moving look into German society at that particular time and Konrad Wengler's eyes and experiences are the perfect vehicle with which to describe this tragic era. I first heard the term "passing" to describe an African-American of mixed race who is so fair-skinned that they could "pass" as white in pre-civil rights era America. (There is an excellent film on the subject called Imitation of Life) In order for Konrad to pass as a good German, all he has to do is deny the heritage and memory of a long-dead loving mother. The exact moment when the young Konrad makes the decision to do just that is told in painful detail in the prologue of Ascension. The prologue is so accurate and frightening in its portrait of the cruelty and inhumanity children are capable of that it's painful to read.

In my opinion, Max Overton has created a classic in Ascension. It is one of those books everyone should read. Ascension is powerful, not because of the depictions of cruelty, but because of how deftly Max Overton shows that this is not a phenomenon created by the Nazis or the Germans but something dormant in all of us just waiting for the right set of social circumstances to bloom and run amok.
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Bob Rich
Jan 21, 2014
I've just read the Prologue and I'm caught. This is Writing.

I've never thought I could have liking and sympathy for a Nazi, a member of the SS who was involved in rounding up and killing Jews during the Holocaust. Max Overton has managed to achieve this miracle. He has told the story of a good, decent man caught in the evil web of Nazi Germany, forced to do his work as a police officer in a thoroughly immoral way, gradually sucked into horrific crimes in the name of the State.

This book is not for everyone: you need a strong stomach to read the unvarnished truth of the crimes of the Second World War. However, a valuable lesson is that ordinary, decent people can be subverted by the lies of those in authority, in the way this is happening right now, in our times.

In 1971, Zimbardo published The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good
People Turn Evil, based on the famous Stanford prison experiment. Like his student participant "prison guards", Max's hero Konrad slipped into the demands of his situation. Eventually, through suffering himself, he surmounted this and chose honesty and dignity even in the face of torture and death.

So, the story ends with the triumph of good over evil, and this makes it worthwhile to read through the terrible parts. With the warning I've given, I can thoroughly recommend this wonderfully written book.
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Apr 12, 2016
For me Max Overton's Ascension was a gripping read that explored the personal struggles of the principal character Konrad, born of a Jewish mother and German father, a mischling under the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.
Bullied because of his association with Jews at school, Kondrad denies his own Jewishness, and later joins the German Army and fights and is wounded in the First World War. Afterwards he manages to join the Order Police as a single officer in a rural district.
As the National Socialists and Hitler come to power Konrad is swept up in local intrigues where his honesty and regard for the law are at odds with his superior. He finds himself drafted into the Police Battalion 101, a unit under the control of the SS that was involved in "resettlement actions'' in the Warthegau district, following behind the Wehrmacht as they invaded Poland.
Konrad's moral code is sorely tested during these harrowing horrific events, and he is oblivious to the dark machinations of others that soon envelop him, but from which he eventually is freed.
The historical details portrayed in Ascension are detailed and accurate. Max Overton's vivid writing made me feel as if I was there sharing with Konrad the horrors and pain he experienced.
The novel ends in suspense, and I look forward to ''Maelstrom'' and ''Dammerung'', the remaining titles in this trilogy. I also found that this novel dovetailed quite well with Max Overton's book ''We came from Konigsberg'', an excellent and moving novel based on a true story of the flight by a mother and her five young sons from Konigsberg in Eastern Prussia to escape the atrocities and horrors of the Russian advance in the dying stages of World War 2 in Europe.
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