The i Tetralogy
by Mathias B. Freese

(Hats Off Books)

The i Tetralogy is a book of terrifying accuracy, a tome of obsession and the sickening brutality of the Holocaust, told through the eyes of three very different people.  There is the prisoner in the death camp, Gunther the SS "urntersturmfuhrer" (both young and old) and Gunther's own son.  From the foreword we are robbed of our humanity, prepared for selection and for the horrible truth before being plunged into a death camp, disoriented and lost. We slowly become the narrator, the Jew who refers to himself as vermin and admits his own defeat. As the "vermin" you comply, abandon all hope, and slowly die one by one.  Resign all hope of comfort or emotion. Endure sleepless nights, dig your own graves endlessly into the summer heat or the winter, and watch as men who may have once been strong, passionate beings are shattered by bayonets, their brains splattered upon the boot of Hell incarnate. There is no God in this place, and there is no hope. You have resigned to become the slave. The SS are your masters. They are given the luxury of whores, smoking, food, and the privilege to have family and friends. But the consequences are still the same. As Gunther you are there to serve Germany and walk through the shit and blood that has become another layer of earth, breaking down the Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies and Poles as if it were second nature, and, if you're feeling lucky, you'll blow someone's brains out by the end of the day. The SS too are robbed of who they were. Their normal lives, everything they knew, is now gone. They leave an unseen trail in their old age under "protection", their pride of the Third Reich disguised by train collections and the tantalizing vision to turn Long Island into a death camp. What Gunther leaves behind is a wife and children, only one of whom ever discovered who he was. There is no pride in being the son of Gunther; only humiliation, anger, and a soul as soiled as the men he once fed to the gas chambers.

The i Tetralogy at times was a bit extreme. There would be brief moments where the book would need to be put down and walked away from. It is nowhere near moving, but it is deliberately repulsive. It pounds you, pulverizes you, and leaves you for dead.  The author has a strong voice and his understanding of the human psyche is immense,  though at times Gunther's philosophical insights seemed a bit drawn out and repetitive. Vulgar and often over the top, it pulses with anger towards the Nazi German that is nothing short of convincing. Even the cover expresses the overbearing of Nazi Germany and the shattering of the human spirit (though to be sure it was difficult to carry around: a shining beacon of curiosity for strangers and interested peers).
    This account of the Holocaust is unlike any other I have read. Even next to the pile of books filled with emotion and trauma, and countless chapters of good victim versus bad Nazi, it inspires a new topic of conversation. We find ourselves in a sweat of uncertainty waiting for the answers to the one question that for years has gone unanswered.


But more importantly, we must ask ourselves:

What does it mean to be human? What makes a man a man and what turns a man into a machine and reduces another to dust? Are we really so fragile and easily swayed by power?

- Meaghan Beninati