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The Son and Heir: A Memoir

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A prize-winning Dutch journalist’s unsparing memoir of growing up amid the excesses, triumphs, and devastation of post–World War II Europe What can a son say upon discovering that his father wore a Nazi uniform? Reporter Alexander Münninghoff was only four when he found this mortifying relic from his father’s recent past in his attic. This shameful memento came to symbolize A prize-winning Dutch journalist’s unsparing memoir of growing up amid the excesses, triumphs, and devastation of post–World War II Europe What can a son say upon discovering that his father wore a Nazi uniform? Reporter Alexander Münninghoff was only four when he found this mortifying relic from his father’s recent past in his attic. This shameful memento came to symbolize not only his father’s tragically misguided allegiance but also a shattered marriage and ultimately the unconscionable separation of a mother and son. In this revelatory memoir, the author confronts his parents’ complex past as he reconstructs the fortunes and disillusions of an entire family upheaved during the changes of twentieth-century Europe. The Münninghoffs were driven by greed, rebellion, and rage. An embattled dynasty, they were torn between the right and the wrong side of history. Their saga haunted Alexander’s life for the next seventy years. Only in reconciling with them can this man find the courage to move forward as son and heir to the startling legacy of a flawed yet grand tradition.


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A prize-winning Dutch journalist’s unsparing memoir of growing up amid the excesses, triumphs, and devastation of post–World War II Europe What can a son say upon discovering that his father wore a Nazi uniform? Reporter Alexander Münninghoff was only four when he found this mortifying relic from his father’s recent past in his attic. This shameful memento came to symbolize A prize-winning Dutch journalist’s unsparing memoir of growing up amid the excesses, triumphs, and devastation of post–World War II Europe What can a son say upon discovering that his father wore a Nazi uniform? Reporter Alexander Münninghoff was only four when he found this mortifying relic from his father’s recent past in his attic. This shameful memento came to symbolize not only his father’s tragically misguided allegiance but also a shattered marriage and ultimately the unconscionable separation of a mother and son. In this revelatory memoir, the author confronts his parents’ complex past as he reconstructs the fortunes and disillusions of an entire family upheaved during the changes of twentieth-century Europe. The Münninghoffs were driven by greed, rebellion, and rage. An embattled dynasty, they were torn between the right and the wrong side of history. Their saga haunted Alexander’s life for the next seventy years. Only in reconciling with them can this man find the courage to move forward as son and heir to the startling legacy of a flawed yet grand tradition.

30 review for The Son and Heir: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    3.5 stars I was drawn to this book because I wanted to know what would make a Dutch boy raised in Latvia want to run off and fight for the Nazis in World War II. That's exactly what Frans Munninghoff, the author's father, did when he was a teenager. I learned a couple of things. One was that early in the war, certain Baltic countries were more afraid of Soviet Russia than they were of Hitler. They thought Germany was going to be their savior, preventing Stalin from swallowing them up. The other t 3.5 stars I was drawn to this book because I wanted to know what would make a Dutch boy raised in Latvia want to run off and fight for the Nazis in World War II. That's exactly what Frans Munninghoff, the author's father, did when he was a teenager. I learned a couple of things. One was that early in the war, certain Baltic countries were more afraid of Soviet Russia than they were of Hitler. They thought Germany was going to be their savior, preventing Stalin from swallowing them up. The other thing I learned was that Frans Munninghoff was just a spoiled boy who detested his Dutch heritage and wanted to get back at his father for forcing him to be educated in the Netherlands. It turns out that being in the Waffen SS was just the beginning of his life as a ne'er-do-well. He spent his whole life cheating people, cheating on people, and never having to pay any real consequences for his actions. His father was an extremely wealthy businessman and saw to it that Frans never really suffered as he should have for his Nazi affiliation. The "heir" in the title is the author, Alexander Munninghoff. This is another one of those stories where a boy is only of value because he stands to inherit the family fortune. Beyond that, no one cares much about what happens to him. In some ways I found his story more interesting than his father's. He had no stability and not a whole lot of love in his upbringing, and he could easily have turned out to be a shiftless scam artist like his father. It's admirable that instead he went on to create a successful, accomplished life for himself. The book is quite well written, as memoirs go, although it suffers at times from overtelling. I found it difficult to keep track of all the family members and friends and their nationalities and how they fit into the narrative. Still, it's well worth reading if you want to see how the iniquities of the fathers are visited upon their offspring to the third and fourth generations, just as it says in scripture.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I got this for World Book Day on Kindle! I'm kind of glad I did because it's not the sort of book I would normally gravitate to. THE SON AND THE HEIR is part memoir, part biography. In it, a famous Dutch journalist talks about his discovery that his father was a Nazi soldier in WWII and goes from there to talk about his family's rise and ultimate fall, revolving around his grandfather, the family patriarch around whom everything revolved Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I got this for World Book Day on Kindle! I'm kind of glad I did because it's not the sort of book I would normally gravitate to. THE SON AND THE HEIR is part memoir, part biography. In it, a famous Dutch journalist talks about his discovery that his father was a Nazi soldier in WWII and goes from there to talk about his family's rise and ultimate fall, revolving around his grandfather, the family patriarch around whom everything revolved. The author's father actually joined up with the Germans to spite his father, but Münninghoff delves deeper than that, talking about the complex relations in Europe during WWII, and how many of the countries were torn between fear of Hitler's growing power and fear of Russian annexation. I can't imagine what a difficult book this was to write. Apparently, the author died a few months before it was published in English. His family's story is sad. It's ultimately a story about how war tears up families and ruins lives and how money drives wedges between what remains, sowing discord and grievances. When Alexander Münninghoff was named the family heir by his grandfather, both of his parents, now separated, fought over him pretty brutally. The writing (and the translation) are crisp and at times, it feels incredibly impersonal. Maybe the author needed that distance to examine such painful subjects. There are themes of classism and xenophobia that give the book a really intensely claustrophobic feel that make it read like a nonfiction gothic. Towards the end, the pacing of it all got a little slow, but this was such a novel perspective on WWII and the recovering European economy and social structure that I found I didn't really mind. So far, this is my favorite book that I got from my World Book Day haul, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes books that plunge the dark side of "old world charm" or who enjoy learning about WWII. 3.5 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mrs. Moira McGeough

    Alexander Munninghoff's memoir left me very grateful for the family I was born into! Just very ordinary people, hard working and kind..... always kind. There was very little kindness in the Munninghoff tribe, resulting in bitterness and tragedy. I did learn some background about the Baltic states in WW2 which was interesting, but other than that it was a grim read. Alexander Munninghoff's memoir left me very grateful for the family I was born into! Just very ordinary people, hard working and kind..... always kind. There was very little kindness in the Munninghoff tribe, resulting in bitterness and tragedy. I did learn some background about the Baltic states in WW2 which was interesting, but other than that it was a grim read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Scott J Pearson

    The author, an award-winning Dutch journalist with professional expertise on Russia, writes his family history that is well-grounded in the European experience. This family of riches and complexities has ties to Latvia, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Like most memoirs, this work can be seen as the author making sense of his own complex life here. Münginghoff died in April of 2020, shortly before this translation was published. Overall, this is a tragic story, not a hopeful one. There are The author, an award-winning Dutch journalist with professional expertise on Russia, writes his family history that is well-grounded in the European experience. This family of riches and complexities has ties to Latvia, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Like most memoirs, this work can be seen as the author making sense of his own complex life here. Münginghoff died in April of 2020, shortly before this translation was published. Overall, this is a tragic story, not a hopeful one. There are few noble characters detailed inside. It is simply a story of European life, caught up in the difficulties of the Second World War. The author’s grandfather was a rich businessman who was kicked out of Latvia by the Bolsheviks. His son, the author’s father, was a German SS officer on the Eastern front. He had many failings, which are detailed in this work. The family story bobs and weaves from there. His son, a writer and lawyer by trade, has obviously tried to make sense of his family history. There are very few healthy relationships described in this book. Indeed, there is much strangeness. In some ways, it reads like a Franz Kafka novel with all of its grotesqueness. Each of the main characters appear profoundly lonely and manipulate their family members to achieve their individually desired ends. The author seems to be seeking some sort of peace and normalcy within this maelstrom. This book is recommended to those seeking to make sense of their own variegated family experiences. Also, the European backdrop highlights national rivalries and historical prejudices of this complex continent. As one would expect from an award-winning journalist, it is well-composed and appears thoroughly researched. I am left desiring more hopefulness and noble character, however. These people seem to lack virtue – at least, when virtue is present, the author views it as a mere mask of darker sentiments. Thus, the reader is left with much cynicism and without much positive to take away.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elidoyle

    Tedious Dry, brittle recounting of a self-serving, quarreling family. The reviews claimed this reads like a novel. It does not. Disappointed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Joost Bouwman

    Really enjoyed this book about the family of former Dutch correspondent in Russia Alexander Munninghoff. The stories about his trading and scheming grandfather are fascinating. The stories about the doomed romance between his parents is mostly tragic. His father never recovers from the war, during which he fought for the SS because he felt more (Baltic-)German than Dutch, and losing his beloved Baltic German pre-war world. The relationship between the tycoon and his son never recovers from the a Really enjoyed this book about the family of former Dutch correspondent in Russia Alexander Munninghoff. The stories about his trading and scheming grandfather are fascinating. The stories about the doomed romance between his parents is mostly tragic. His father never recovers from the war, during which he fought for the SS because he felt more (Baltic-)German than Dutch, and losing his beloved Baltic German pre-war world. The relationship between the tycoon and his son never recovers from the attempt to dutchify the latter - although after the war the son realises he can't go without his fathers money. The grandfather always wanted his son to marry a Dutch girl instead (from an important business family). When the marriage breaks up he drives the mother away to Germany and manages to kidnap the grandson to have him raised in the Netherlands. Neither parents seems particularly interested in young Alexander. His father leads a live of drinking and scheming, but lacking his fathers savy in business keeps losing money. His mother leads a life in poverty, never getting over the failed marriage and the rejection by the family. At times the stories seem a bit far fetched, but I expect most of it is based on facts. Naturally a lot of the conversation is not factual, but this makes the book very easy to read. The book gives a small insight into German-Baltic, a world we know so little about and a history we learn very little about in school. The books I know of about men fighting for Nazi Germany are mostly about people looking for adventure. The Baltic perspective was a very interesting and unexpected addition.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Connie53

    Very well written true story by Alexander Münninghoff. He is the heir or maybe I should say the Lineage holder. He tells about his grandfather (a very rich Dutchman who gets very rich before and during WWII) and his father (who is kind of a loser) and about himself (known Dutch journalist). I googled a lot while reading and everything checked out. It was very informative and I liked the way he writes. Never emotional, always keeping a distance, but not cold.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    I chose this book from Amazon first reads, expecting a different view and experience of WW II. It is that but I found too much of the story was simply personal family soap-opera stories. I still enjoyed the book for its historical aspects.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Howdle

    This memoir by Munninghoff is fascinating, but not written evenly. This issue reflects the son-father relationship and its changing nature. Part One centres on indirectly experienced events: the influence of the author's impressive and deceptive grandfather on events. The Old Boss was a wily businessman who played the Nazis off against the Americans and managed to be all things to all people. These events are awkwardly related, but nonetheless fascinating, and the machinations of the Old Boss an This memoir by Munninghoff is fascinating, but not written evenly. This issue reflects the son-father relationship and its changing nature. Part One centres on indirectly experienced events: the influence of the author's impressive and deceptive grandfather on events. The Old Boss was a wily businessman who played the Nazis off against the Americans and managed to be all things to all people. These events are awkwardly related, but nonetheless fascinating, and the machinations of the Old Boss and the goings on in the family smoking room connect to central issues in the Third Reich . Some critical events, however, are casually thrown away. The Old Boss sent the author's father, Franz, to Norfolk for a holiday, to stay with a friend. During this time, the teenage Franz became friends with none other than J.F.Kennedy. Writing with a journalist's eye, rather than a historian's, Munninghoff skips over the event as nothing more than a photo in the mind's photo album. Part Two focuses on childhood. Here, the writing is intimate and detailed and told with real emotion. This section reads smoothly and is filled with moving vignettes and childhood's horrors! In Part Three, the narrative is perfunctory. The author's relationship with father and mother have been broken for many years: consequently, the final section just fills in parts of a family jigsaw -- it is the least interesting part of the memoir. Overall, The Son and Heir is enlightening, yet it avoids the one question that I expected to be answered, especially after the memoir's opening, when Alexander/Bully discovers Nazi regalia in his father's wardrobe, what is it like to be the descendant of a paramilitary Nazi?

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dallas Ashbay

    This book had me feeling so raw, like somebody had stripped back all my tissue and I became nothing more than a series of exposed nerves. The Son and Heir is so powerful. It simultaneously manages to be extravagant and relatable. It is struggle amplified and shame personified. There is no better representation of the internal familial friction inspired by the patriarchy, and the malignant friction fathers and sons share for each other. Also, this paints a beautiful, if not melancholic view, of E This book had me feeling so raw, like somebody had stripped back all my tissue and I became nothing more than a series of exposed nerves. The Son and Heir is so powerful. It simultaneously manages to be extravagant and relatable. It is struggle amplified and shame personified. There is no better representation of the internal familial friction inspired by the patriarchy, and the malignant friction fathers and sons share for each other. Also, this paints a beautiful, if not melancholic view, of Europe that I find absolutely fascinating as an American.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim Dailey

    A memoir with a clear eyed view toward the cacophony of a wealthy family with money to burn and lives to live. It is striking that this memoir came at the end of the authors life. His depiction of his father is blunt as he was a nazi sergeant and ultimately lifelong foolish spender who came down to reality by being disavowed from an epically wealthy father at a young age. This book is full of matter of fact descriptions of cynical protection of the tycoon’s relatives by any means, usually money A memoir with a clear eyed view toward the cacophony of a wealthy family with money to burn and lives to live. It is striking that this memoir came at the end of the authors life. His depiction of his father is blunt as he was a nazi sergeant and ultimately lifelong foolish spender who came down to reality by being disavowed from an epically wealthy father at a young age. This book is full of matter of fact descriptions of cynical protection of the tycoon’s relatives by any means, usually money based, in court if a situation arose. It also pulls no punches at the behavior of those that contributed to the fortune beyond the monetary realm of which he has to call forth from his mind for this memoir. I found the behaviors and political climate described to be very enlightening as well as endlessly interesting. The author, being a lifelong writer and chess master, delivers expertly understood motivations and moves with a great style. Shoutout to the translator for bringing this book into English.

  12. 4 out of 5

    d.a.v.i.d

    Too many words for me. That and his testimony that he remembers clearly in this memoir of his life when he was two years old. I will not believe it. Stopped at twenty percent or so.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    This is quite a remarkable memoir about a quite remarkable family. Not a very likeable one, however, and dysfunctional hardly begins to cover it. I certainly had sympathy for the author, the heir to this family, but given his background it’s surprising he made it through at all. It’s a multi-generational family saga covering much of the 20th century and moves between Latvia, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands, a particularly turbulent part of the world and where the legacy of WWII lives on. It This is quite a remarkable memoir about a quite remarkable family. Not a very likeable one, however, and dysfunctional hardly begins to cover it. I certainly had sympathy for the author, the heir to this family, but given his background it’s surprising he made it through at all. It’s a multi-generational family saga covering much of the 20th century and moves between Latvia, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands, a particularly turbulent part of the world and where the legacy of WWII lives on. It definitely did for the author who discovered that his father had served in the Waffen-SS, voluntarily, as a Dutchman. Politics and mixed allegiances galore, shady business practices, alcoholism, poverty and wealth, abduction, abandoned wives and children – the list goes on. The family were originally rich and well-connected but the war largely put paid to that and the extended family went on to lead a peripatetic existence forging new lives in new countries whenever circumstances demanded. Their story is often distasteful and the author’s father in particular was a truly nasty piece of work. This is not a in any way a nostalgic and melancholy memoir about growing up in tumultuous times, but an exposé of the shadier side of family life. Quite fascinating.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    The author grew up having to deal with the fact that his father was an office in the SS during WWII. He gave his son advice like, “You can get anything by force.” His grandfather was wealthy before, during, and after the war through a combination of business acumen and manipulative dealings. Although the grandfather didn't like his son being a Nazi, he still used his "Catholic brotherhood" to get his son out of jail, keep him from getting deported, and let him inherit his empire, which the autho The author grew up having to deal with the fact that his father was an office in the SS during WWII. He gave his son advice like, “You can get anything by force.” His grandfather was wealthy before, during, and after the war through a combination of business acumen and manipulative dealings. Although the grandfather didn't like his son being a Nazi, he still used his "Catholic brotherhood" to get his son out of jail, keep him from getting deported, and let him inherit his empire, which the author's father promptly screwed up. The author was a pawn in the family game, being kidnapped twice (once when his mother spirited him out of the country and once when the grandfather sent two people complete with a chloroform rag to steal him back. He didn't see his mother again for 18 years). The author bounced around from a posh living with his grandfather, to dire poverty with his mother, to low-income neglect with his father following his second kidnapping. Meanwhile, the family went through drama after drama as spouses cheated on each other, had affairs with in-laws, gave birth to illegitimate children, hid money, used drugs, etc. etc. The author said, "I grew up to be a boy with secrets: about my father in the war, about my impoverished mother and illegitimate sister in Germany, about my devoutly Catholic grandfather and his dubious activities that I learned more about over time, about my abductions, about the fact that we still preferred to speak German at Briva Latvija." He acknowledged his father was a money-lusting scam artist; that his mother didn't even bother to answer his letters once he grew old enough to try and contact him; and that money and influence were more important than justice when it came to the courts and the church. That he survived it all without becoming a mental case himself was pretty remarkable.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    The Life and Times The story kept my attention despite the fact that there are no sympathetic characters. Like life, the story ends with him reconciling with his estranged mother before her death. It's some comfort that others in life share aspects of our stories. The Life and Times The story kept my attention despite the fact that there are no sympathetic characters. Like life, the story ends with him reconciling with his estranged mother before her death. It's some comfort that others in life share aspects of our stories.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joost Nixon

    Not all books need to be comedy. There is a place for tragedy. This is well written, but honestly, I'd like my time back that I spent on it. Not all books need to be comedy. There is a place for tragedy. This is well written, but honestly, I'd like my time back that I spent on it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gemma W

    What a horrible bunch. Have to admit I skim read the end. Simply didn't care at all what happened to any of them. The first part was more interesting from a historical point of view. What a horrible bunch. Have to admit I skim read the end. Simply didn't care at all what happened to any of them. The first part was more interesting from a historical point of view.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hillary

    So, how dysfunctional can a family get? This was a Kindle First book; I chose it for something different, as it's not a typical offering. I come away from the book thinking about how much WWII affected people in Europe, both directly and down the generations. There's also something about Europe itself, the different languages and cultures and variations of Christianity all crammed into a relatively small landmass. I'm thinking, too, about how a person's character develops. What makes people so n So, how dysfunctional can a family get? This was a Kindle First book; I chose it for something different, as it's not a typical offering. I come away from the book thinking about how much WWII affected people in Europe, both directly and down the generations. There's also something about Europe itself, the different languages and cultures and variations of Christianity all crammed into a relatively small landmass. I'm thinking, too, about how a person's character develops. What makes people so naïve and trusting? Greedy? Controlling? Or what makes a person kind? Upbringing? Are we born a certain way? The book is translated from Dutch and a fairly easy read, though some parts were more interesting than others. Sometimes, this type of memoir "reads like a novel." This one did not. There are some structural inconsistencies, but nothing too glaring. It was a fair read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steve Whichard

    Extremely interesting read. The history of a family that travels through some of the roughest times for Europe. The book gives a different perspective on the conflicts of the time through a family of characters that you find hard not to love and hate even at the same time. I found myself wanting to know more and even thankful that more details weren't available. Extremely interesting read. The history of a family that travels through some of the roughest times for Europe. The book gives a different perspective on the conflicts of the time through a family of characters that you find hard not to love and hate even at the same time. I found myself wanting to know more and even thankful that more details weren't available.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Hanson

    The Son and Heir is an interesting memoir about the son of a German SS Agent. The story is really about three generations, a wealthy controlling Dutch grandfather who spent much of his time in the Baltics; his son, who rebelled against his Dutch background, and joined the German SS to fight against the Russian Bolsheviks, and the grandson, a journalist who hid his father's story for most of his life. Munninghoff uses his journalistic talents to dive into his family history, and reveals it in a w The Son and Heir is an interesting memoir about the son of a German SS Agent. The story is really about three generations, a wealthy controlling Dutch grandfather who spent much of his time in the Baltics; his son, who rebelled against his Dutch background, and joined the German SS to fight against the Russian Bolsheviks, and the grandson, a journalist who hid his father's story for most of his life. Munninghoff uses his journalistic talents to dive into his family history, and reveals it in a way that is both empathetic and honest. His grandfather, whom he loved as a child, comes across as the ultimate opportunist and yet very savvy, carefully playing both sides in the war and ultimately building a fortune. His father comes across as someone who always struggled to find his place in the world and to get out from under his own father's shadow, but was never able to recreate the camaraderie or the self-importance he felt during the war. Alexander, the grandson, then is the one left to process all this history, and to find his own place and own identity in the world. More than anything, this book helps put a face to those who fought in World War II, and the costs the war exacted not only to those that lived it, but to the generations that followed.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Whistlers Mom

    What did you do in the war, Daddy? Don't ask, Son. I hate all forms of political extremism and (especially) the brand of "patriotism" that teaches that a country can only be great by conquering other nations. The rise of Hitler and his Nazis and the Jewish genocide they committed was the greatest tragedy of the Twentieth Century. So I was initially resistant to this book, which I took to be a son's apology for his father's service in the German Army during WWII. I'm glad I overcame my prejudice, b What did you do in the war, Daddy? Don't ask, Son. I hate all forms of political extremism and (especially) the brand of "patriotism" that teaches that a country can only be great by conquering other nations. The rise of Hitler and his Nazis and the Jewish genocide they committed was the greatest tragedy of the Twentieth Century. So I was initially resistant to this book, which I took to be a son's apology for his father's service in the German Army during WWII. I'm glad I overcame my prejudice, because this author makes no attempt to excuse his father's actions. Instead he uses his long career as a journalist to research and tell the story of a unique European family caught up in political chaos and the world's most destructive war ever. It's a story that covers three generations and moves from The Netherlands to Latvia and all points in between. In particular, it's a story that shows how the close political, economic, and blood ties between the people of northern Europe meant that WWII pitted family members against each other. The heart doesn't recognize a border and never has. The family patriarch was Joan Munninghoff, the "Old Boss." A proud Dutchman, he moved to Latvia and became a rich man. He married a beautiful, independent Russian Countess whose family were prominent members of Riga's large German population. It was a love match that produced five children, but there was also infidelity and the clash of two strong egos. The children grew up in luxury, but with little parental affection and even less affection for each other. Frans Munninghoff was the oldest son and destined by his powerful father to carry on the family empire. He was the original "son and heir" and was sent to The Netherlands to be educated. In spite of his father's hopes, he never felt Dutch, identifying with his mother's Russian/German heritage. The Russian Revolution and the destruction of the German economy by WWI created a chaotic situation in northern Europe. White Russians, Red Russians, and German nationalists (Nazis) vied for power. They only agreed on one thing - the Jews were responsible for all their problems. The author nails it when he describes his father as "an irrational, pathetic rich kid." Frans (or Franz, as he renamed himself) claimed that he joined the Nazi military to fight Bolshevism and restore the Russian Empire. In reality, his choices had much more to do with his rebellion against his father and his desires to become a more important man. With his mother's aristocratic Russian blood, he saw himself riding Hitler's coattails to a position of power under a restored Czar. It was a plan which had little to do with "liberating" Russia and much to do with his own dreams of glory. The contrast between the wily father and his angry, inept son is fascinating by itself. The Old Boss was a born businessman, wily and a superb judge of character. He understood that business is never fully separated from politics and he knew that the secret to success in both is personal connections. From Latvian politicians to English aristocrats to Joseph Kennedy to German commanders, he found ways to use like-minded people to accomplish his goals. Frans' personality was composed of equal parts arrogance and feelings of inferiority. In the elite Waffen SS troops, he was part of the most feared, hated military force in Europe, but even there, life disappointed him. The German march into Russian turned into a disaster, as half-starved Russians beat back Germany's best-trained soldiers. Frans was left with an Iron Cross, shrapnel in his arm and leg, and stories he told only when he was drunk and only to his bored teenage son. His German military service made him despised by patriotic Dutch who had suffered under German occupation. He lacked his father's boldness and capacity for hard work and his alcoholism didn't help, either. Gullibility and greed is a bad combination for a businessman and he never came close to his ambition of becoming a wealthier man than his father. Nor was his marriage to part-Russian, part-German Wera any more successful than his parents' marriage. Alexander was the subject of a bitter custody battle; first awarded to one parent, then to the other. Incredibly, he was kidnapped and then re-kidnapped. His stories about the few months he spent in a small German town as a seven-year-old child are bizarre and unforgettable. Little boys are little boys, any time and anywhere. But the psychological toll of war and defeat on the German people is hard to comprehend. Eleven-year-old Peter was also the son of German soldiers who fought in Russia, but his brother was killed and his father horribly maimed. In war, sometimes a "survivor" is a woman with dead eyes whose son will never come home or a man strapped in a wheel-chair with an Iron Cross pinned to his chest. The Old Boss' "son and heir" survived and went on to a successful career and a happy marriage. By the end of his life, he was able to look back on both sides of his family and see their strengths and weaknesses and how their good decisions and mistakes merged to form the man he became. When the dust settles (from wars or revolutions or family feuds) there are no winners or losers. All that counts is happiness and it's deeply satisfying that this talented, thoughtful man was able to achieve it. I never felt like I was reading a history book, but this is densely packed with information about the role of northern Europeans in WWII. Sometimes books that are translated into English are stiff and didactic, but this one reads like a lively novel. The author's intelligence and understanding of human nature shine through. It's a brilliant book and I'll never forget it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jan Vranken

    Review Groene 11.12.14

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    interesting tale, ok-ly written

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anne Van wijngaarden

    Good for history nerds (I mean that in a good way)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rajyashree Dutta

    ‘The Son and Heir’, originally titled as ‘De Stamhouder’ in Dutch is a memoir by Dutch journalist Alexander Münninghoff. In this poignant, personal and revelatory tale, Münninghoff explores his father Frans Münninghoff’s life as a misguided patriot, the tragic result of the same, the impact of the war, his physical and emotional turmoil, his wandering nature, his failed marriages and the ill-affect of it all on his son, that is Alexander’s life that left him solitary and motherless! In a light, ‘The Son and Heir’, originally titled as ‘De Stamhouder’ in Dutch is a memoir by Dutch journalist Alexander Münninghoff. In this poignant, personal and revelatory tale, Münninghoff explores his father Frans Münninghoff’s life as a misguided patriot, the tragic result of the same, the impact of the war, his physical and emotional turmoil, his wandering nature, his failed marriages and the ill-affect of it all on his son, that is Alexander’s life that left him solitary and motherless! In a light, stoic yet effective narrative, he tells us about his coming of age as a resentful son and a heir of a complex and flawed family to confronting his reality, accepting the same with a brave front and finally moving on from the same for a future - free from the grip of his family’s legacy. At the age of four, Alexander Münninghoff finds out that his father was a Nazi on his chance encounter of his father’s memorabilia. Since then, Münninghoff is presented with a life that is unstable, strange, random and highly inconsistent - he was separated from his father (his father abandons him in a whim whenever it suits him), was forced to live in poverty even though he was deemed as the heir of his grandfather’s huge wealth, was kidnapped twice - once by his mother and once from her, and eventually was brought up by his father and step-mother who were far from being perfect parents despite their good intensions. His grandfather, who had a flourishing business in Riga before the war had to leave Latvia post breaking out of the war. He ,loves to the Netherlands where he starts his business again. A cunning and smart businessman he build his wealth once again. Münninghoffs were a dynasty of greedy, ambitious, rebellious and outlandish people. If some where honest, others were cooked, if some were fighting for the right causes, some were exploiting every possible situation. Naturally, the impact of all this was massive on Alexander. An eccentric father, a poor mother (both of which had married for love but drifted apart by the war - Frans fighting for the Nazi out of his hatred for the Netherlands, and his mother - forced to leave by her father-in-law for not being a Dutch), a forceful & overwhelming grand-father and an extended family of uncles & aunts who didn’t care enough, Alexander was left to his own device most of his childhood to adulthood. While his grandfather saw him as the heir, eventually he didn’t inherit anything either owning to his grandfather’s reproach towards Frans. As he grew up, Alexander became a solitary, lonely youth who always blamed his mother for his abandonment and his father for his failed role as a father. However, as he becomes his own person, he finds the courage to reconcile with his parent’s complicated past and thus find the road to move on with his life. Being someone who is deeply intrigued by historic fiction, especially ones in the backdrop of WWII, I went to ‘The Son and Heir’ looking for pieces of history around this time. And I wasn’t disappointed. While this is not a typical WWII tale of German occupation, there’s much to know about the time in this memoir. Especially the circumstances, social perception and the impact of the war on people who were from countries like the Netherlands, Latvia, Sweden and Belgium. It wasn’t a war-tale, but the intrinsic impact and influence of the war! The flow of the narrative was amazing too. While I had read only the translated version, I could see the soul of the writer in it and his complexity as a child born to a grand yet eccentric family. Thus, there’s a lot to like in this memoir. What I didn’t like a lot is the endless number of events and secrets that even the writer (despite being a part of it) didn’t have a clue to. For example, Münninghoff seems to be clueless about a lot of business ventures that his grandfather and father had (being the firstborn and later a journalist, this seemed a bit unrealistic). Also, there seems to be umpteen number of times Frans got lucky in his life, which to me felt like a fictional thing (maybe it was real, but didn’t feel so). The last bit would be there was nothing about Münninghoff himself (including his marriage to Ellen) in the story. It could be intentional because the objective was to tell more about how he comes to terms with his complicated parents, but I felt it could have given the story more strength. Nonetheless, ‘The Son and Heir’ is a heartfelt tale of a young boy, born to all the comfort but had to grow up in absolute difficulties because of the ill-fate of the war in his parents, and majorly because of the times he was born in. I’m going with a 3 out of 5.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    This is a memoir about how one European family navigated WWII and its aftermath. With a jaundiced eye, Alexander Münninghoff dispassionately chronicles the strange and often tragic behavior of his extended family. In the midst of war and devastation, they lived a privileged existence marred by greed, compromise, rebellion and duplicity. His grandfather was a wealthy businessman who fled Latvia for the Netherlands following the Russian takeover. He was passionate about his religion, his Dutch heri This is a memoir about how one European family navigated WWII and its aftermath. With a jaundiced eye, Alexander Münninghoff dispassionately chronicles the strange and often tragic behavior of his extended family. In the midst of war and devastation, they lived a privileged existence marred by greed, compromise, rebellion and duplicity. His grandfather was a wealthy businessman who fled Latvia for the Netherlands following the Russian takeover. He was passionate about his religion, his Dutch heritage, and the future of his business dynasty. He was a clever businessman always on the lookout for the next big opportunity. With little regard for virtue, he used his many powerful connections to achieve personal and business goals. His eldest son, Frans, was Alexander’s father. He clearly was a disappointment to his own father for embracing the Nazis and eschewing his Dutch heritage. Frans served in the SS and was wounded during the war. He disowned his wife and son and had an open affair with is best friend’s wife, producing a daughter from the liaison. Moreover, Frans was a total failure and a joke in business circles. His most redeeming quality seemed to have been an intense sense of loyalty to his wartime compatriot who eventually committed suicide and his drug-addicted illegitimate daughter. Following his removal from the family home, Alexander lived with his mother for a short time until he was abducted on the orders of his grandfather who saw him as the heir to the family’s business. Alexander was returned to the family home in Voorburg, where he remained separated from his mother for the rest of his life. Münninghoff shows the tragic outcome of his separation from his mother with her much diminished state following the war. The telling of the dark events in this memoir can be unsettling. Yet his descriptions of things he actually observed or experienced can be quite effective, especially his discovery of his father’s SS helmet and his own abduction. Despite an uneven narrative, Münninghoff generally seems to view the unusual behavior of his family with detachment and empathy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tony Parsons

    Alexander Münninghoff (son, narrator, Leiden U), Frans Münninghoff & Wera (wife/mother) married 5/11/1842, Hamburg, Germany. Alexander under covered a secret about Frans shameful past. 2/12/1947, Frans Münninghoff & Mimousse Münninghoff were roused out of their beds at Ridderborn Castle. The police raided Mimousse’s apartment in Brussels where they found Guus van Blaem’s (son/brother) illegal drug stash. The Public Prosecution Service appointed Johannes Zaaijer (procurator general) to oversee the Alexander Münninghoff (son, narrator, Leiden U), Frans Münninghoff & Wera (wife/mother) married 5/11/1842, Hamburg, Germany. Alexander under covered a secret about Frans shameful past. 2/12/1947, Frans Münninghoff & Mimousse Münninghoff were roused out of their beds at Ridderborn Castle. The police raided Mimousse’s apartment in Brussels where they found Guus van Blaem’s (son/brother) illegal drug stash. The Public Prosecution Service appointed Johannes Zaaijer (procurator general) to oversee the war crimes. After the trial Frans was sent to prison in Scheveningen, Hague, Netherlands. The War crimes trials continued. I do not receive any type of compensation for reading & reviewing free books from publishers & authors. Therefore, I am under no obligation to write a positive review, only an honest one. Warning: This book contains descriptive accounts of extremely graphic adult content (racial hatred), violence, or expletive language &/or uncensored sexually explicit material minor/adult verbal, psychological, emotional, physical & sexual abuse) which is only suitable for mature readers. It may be offensive or have potential adverse psychological effects on the reader. If you are especially sensitive to this type of material, it is strongly advised not to read any further. An awesome book cover, great font & writing style. A very professionally written Memoir book. It was quite easy for me to read/follow from start/finish & never a dull moment. There were no grammar/typo errors, nor any repetitive or out of line sequence sentences. Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns & a huge set of unique characters & facts to keep track of. This could also make another great Memoir movie, PP presentation, or better yet a mini-TV series or even a documentary (A & E; History channel; PBS). It wasn’t detailed enough about the Nazi father, so I will only rate it at 3/5 stars. Thank you for the free Author (s); AmazonCrossing; Amazon Digital Services LLC. Kindle Mobi; book Tony Parsons MSW (Washburn)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Leoma Gilley

    Some people manage to come out of disfunctional family situations as successes, most do not. However, Alexander Münninghoff seems to have managed it. His grandfather, referred to as the Old Boss, seems to have been a tyrannical bully whose primary interest was making a fortune and everyone around him miserable. Alexander's father, Frans, was a misguided eldest son with only disdain for his father and all he represented. Nationalities which most of the world perceives as something concrete seem t Some people manage to come out of disfunctional family situations as successes, most do not. However, Alexander Münninghoff seems to have managed it. His grandfather, referred to as the Old Boss, seems to have been a tyrannical bully whose primary interest was making a fortune and everyone around him miserable. Alexander's father, Frans, was a misguided eldest son with only disdain for his father and all he represented. Nationalities which most of the world perceives as something concrete seem to have little relevance in this family. Originally Dutch, the Old Boss made his fortune in Latvia. When WWII broke out, he moved back to the Netherlands, but Frans joined the German SS as a translator between German and Russian. Frans' wife Wera had a Russian mother and a German father and raised in Latvia. She was sent to England to stay with a relative during the war. Alexander was born in Poland. The result of all the mix of cultures, languages and nationalities did not help this family to understand each other or themselves. The story is seen from the eyes of the grandson, Alexander. He could see the disfunction, but for much of his life was powerless to do anything about it. The tension between his parents and between his parents and the Old Boss resulted in moving from the lap of luxury to extreme poverty and kidnapping. It seems that while Alexander was always referred to as the "heir", he didn't really inherit much of anything as his relatives had destroyed much of his grandfather's empire before Alexander was of the age to inherit. The fact that he seems to have made a successful marriage and has been able to piece together the multiple strands of his family's movements and intentions in order to write this book indicates he has a good mind and lots of determination. While the family is disfunctional, the story is told in as clear a way as possible, with all the twists and turns. When reading, just be prepared to shift countries every few pages.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Fran

    Sad Story This book makes me even more grateful for my wonderful family, if being more grateful is even possible. None of us are perfect, but my parents and siblings are wonderful people, each in their individual ways, and we get along well. This poor man’s family was a dysfunctional mess. I don’t mean to be rude by saying this; it’s just a correct description of the family dynamics. Many of the family members are quite interesting, in a soap-opera, can’t-look-away-from-the-train-wreck kind of wa Sad Story This book makes me even more grateful for my wonderful family, if being more grateful is even possible. None of us are perfect, but my parents and siblings are wonderful people, each in their individual ways, and we get along well. This poor man’s family was a dysfunctional mess. I don’t mean to be rude by saying this; it’s just a correct description of the family dynamics. Many of the family members are quite interesting, in a soap-opera, can’t-look-away-from-the-train-wreck kind of way. I can’t say the book was particularly enjoyable but it is a excellent story of how people deal with the times they lived in and the situations that life handed them, or that they created themselves. It is also very interesting because of the picture it draws of how one family dealt with WW2 and its aftermath. Usually I read stories about the horrors of the war. This one deals with people living through it with some directly involved and others just trying to survive it, with much bad fortune but mostly of the type one can come back from. I would recommend this book, despite my comment that it was not enjoyable. Sometimes we just need to hear someone’s story, or in this case, read it. While not fun, this book is of value and is worth the read. Mr. Munninghoff, I hear you. Thank you for telling your family story.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mrs Helen Rodbourn

    I read this book with interest as there was a lot I didn't previously know about the period in Holland but I also became increasingly frustrated with the tone. As a memoir I expected some emotional involvement from the author but his description of some of the truly dreadful actions of his father were cold and detached. This is a damning story of corruption, the dubious influence of the class sytem and the power of the catholic church in enabling the author's grandfather to amass a huge fortune I read this book with interest as there was a lot I didn't previously know about the period in Holland but I also became increasingly frustrated with the tone. As a memoir I expected some emotional involvement from the author but his description of some of the truly dreadful actions of his father were cold and detached. This is a damning story of corruption, the dubious influence of the class sytem and the power of the catholic church in enabling the author's grandfather to amass a huge fortune both during and after the war. The author seems to have an underlying admiration for the old man and barely criticises his actions or the system which he is so adept at using, despite his terrible treatment of members of his own family. The author's father Frans is clearly mentally disturbed but he is also a deeply unpleasant character who uses people without any sense of empathy. The whole book left me with an unpleasant taste in my mouth and I found that I too was losing any sympathy for the characters including the author. I would have loved to read the same story from the perspective of one of the women. Surely they can't all have been so self centred / weak /pathetic/ powerless/easily deceived as this book implies?

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