In My Grandfather’s Shadow: A lost story of war, trauma and the legacy of silence
Angela Findlay

In My Grandfather’s Shadow: A lost story of war, trauma and the legacy of silence

Something is wrong with Angela. But nothing in her idyllic Anglo-German childhood offers any clue as to what. Plagued by guilt and a sense of her own badness, she becomes fixated on finding ways to atone. A career as an artist in prisons brings her closer to understanding guilt. But what is her crime? And could her German grandfather, the WW2 Wehrmacht general staring out from a photograph on her mother’s desk, have something to do with her recurring nightmares and depressions?


In My Grandfather’s Shadow charts the journey Angela makes to discover the truth about her German roots. Using the memories, letters and memoirs of three generations of her own family as a scaffold on which to hang the bigger picture of Germany’s war story, Angela uncovers the ‘history of the losers’. Her grandfather’s prominent military role on the Eastern Front and subsequent fall from hero to war criminal awaiting trial for Nazi war crimes lends credence to the reality of inherited guilt. And new research from Germany reveals the full impact Nazi indoctrination and the terror of war had on German children such as her mother, whose flight from the Soviets had resulted in unidentified trauma. Gradually she comes to understand how transgenerational transference and epigenetic inheritance of both trauma and guilt have shaped not only her life, but that of millions of second and third generation Germans whose family stories had been shrouded in silence and shame for decades.


In My Grandfather’s Shadow has many dimensions. Angela’s cross-disciplinary approach uses her artist’s eye, psychology studies and prison teaching career to examine themes of mental health, trauma, alternative medicine, art, criminality, war, military duty, punishment vs. rehabilitation, remembrance and forgiveness. By embodying both British and German national psyches, she has an advantage over other authors – British and German – of being able to approach the material from both perspectives and offer fresh views one of the most discussed periods of history. In today’s climate of political upheaval and the worrying re-emergence of anti-Semitism and the far right, In my Grandfather’s Shadow is not only topical, but also addresses the urgency for deeper understanding. Ultimately itis a book about learning to love, heal, forgive and reconcile, even when that seems impossible or wrong.

Book Details:

  • Author: Angela Findlay
  • On Submission
  • Rights Sold
    • United Kingdom: Transworld
    • Germany: Europa Verlag
Angela Findlay

Angela Findlay

Angela Findlay is an artist, writer and accredited lecturer. Her long career of teaching art in prisons and Young Offender Institutions in Germany and England gave her many insights into the nature of guilt and the huge impact the arts can have in terms of rehabilitation. As Arts Coordinator to the leading prison arts charity, Koestler Arts, she founded the Learning to Learn through the Arts Scheme to encourage prisoners into education through dynamic arts projects. In 2016 she was invited by the Ministry of Justice to advise on their new rehabilitation and education policies.   Ange...
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Book Reviews

  • "A compelling journey through guilt and shame that asks fundamental and painful questions about the extent of a family member's participation in one of the biggest crimes of the 20th century. "
    Derek Niemann, author of A Nazi in the Family
  • "A remarkable memoir .... It's a powerful investigation into the individual personal cost that results from wider history, and the ways in which inherited guilt and trauma can leave scars across generations. A must-read for anyone interested in epigenetics. "
    Keith Lowe, Sunday Times bestselling author of Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II
  • "A remarkable cross-pollination of memoir, psychology and history in which the author comes to grips with being the granddaughter of a Nazi general."
    i Newspaper
  • "In My Grandfather's Shadow is an extraordinary book. Beautifully written, poignant and acutely perceptive; endlessly thought-provoking and challenging. From the nature of wickedness to the phenomenon of epigenetics, it is also an extremely powerful and different way of seeing the vast and terrible tides of history. "
    Sinclair McKay, author of Berlin, Dresden, and The Secret Life of Bletchley Park
  • "  This is a moving and powerful memoir that illuminates the extraordinary power of unprocessed trauma as it passes through generations, and how when it is faced it can be healed."
    Julia Samuel, author of Every Family Has a Story, Grief Works and This Too Shall Pass
  • "  Seeking to untangle the complexities of her own life, the author goes in search of a WW2 German general - the grandfather she never knew. The outcome is a powerful and at times painfully honest story that will touch readers at many levels."
    Julia Boyd, author of Travellers in the Third Reich and A Village in the Third Reich
  • "A remarkable memoir .... It's a powerful investigation into the individual personal cost that results from wider history, and the ways in which inherited guilt and trauma can leave scars across generations."
    Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller
  • "A page turner of the highest calibre! Meticulously researched, searingly honest and beautifully written, this timely book is a salient reminder of how intergenerational relationships connect threads between past and present. The author skillfully excavates her grandfather's life putting the family puzzle together piece by piece to create a forensic and fascinating portrait of the past. Her book gives new meaning to the prescient words of psychoanalyst, Roger Woolger: 'It is the responsibility of the living to heal the dead. Otherwise their unfinished business will continue to play out in our fears, phobias and illnesses."
    Marina Cantacuzino, Author and founder of The Forgiveness Project
  • "In a fast-moving story told with great feeling and solid scholarship, Angela Findlay confronts questions of good and evil, generational guilt and reconciliation ... This is a fine book: moving, serious and told with compelling verve. The moral is that honest remembrance of the past helps people live better futures."
    Marcus Ferrar, author of A Foot in Both Camps: a German Past for Better and for Worse
  • "In My Grandfather's Shadow' is a brave, powerful, honest, thoughtful and meticulously researched book. I enjoyed it immensely. It has made me think very hard about intergenerational trauma transfer and explains so much about Germany, and perhaps, in the current context, Russia."
    General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and author of War with Russia
  • "An unflinching exploration of shame and pain passed between generations. This is a powerful and important book which will change the way in which we understand ourselves."
    Emma Craigie, author of Hitler's Last Day
  • "In this gripping account of a long personal journey to confront a difficult family history, Findlay explores the effects of trauma, reveals the healing power of art, and affords deep insights into contemporary memorial culture."
    Bill Niven, Professor Emeritus in Contemporary German History at Nottingham Trent University and author of Facing the Nazi Past
  • "  In My Grandfather's Shadow is utterly compelling, elegantly written and extremely brave. The beauty of the book is how absolutely clearly it shows the depth and breadth of the author's research; the care and sensitivity she has brought to bear on the most difficult of subjects."
    Cotswold Life
  • "A brave and profound book which asks difficult questions about how we live with those parts of history which we would rather forget. Angela Findlay is tireless in her search for the truth - and for a reconciliation process which acknowledges that there can be no neat conclusions. Many readers will find this book informative, healing and inspiring."
    Alice Jolly, author of Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile and Dead Babies and Seaside Towns
  • "A magnificent achievement. So honest, so thorough and so well written. Both Angela’s search for truth and this book are about the deepest possible experience of transmitted collective/personal trauma."
    Pamela Steiner, EdD, Senior Fellow, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health and author of Collective Trauma and the Armenian Genocide
  • "...full of insights and interesting research."