This fascinating piece is part historical narrative, part contemporary profile. From a craft point of view, we were interested in the challenge of portraying Margarete Barthel, the former SS guard, in ways that offer an authoritative "take" yet leave room for complexity. It was Christie’s job, in a sense, to assess Barthel’s honesty and integrity—and to use Barthel’s story to shed light on the reprehensible behavior of many others like her. Christie does a fine job of balancing moral perspective with psychological insight. Her concrete detail also makes the story a good, vivid read.

When she e-mailed us with the link to this story, Christie wrote: "After almost a year of trying, I finally got Barthel, aged 83, to tell her story. What most interested me—an American journalist married to a German, with half-German kids, living in Germany—was understanding how utterly average, ordinary people had gotten involved in mass murder. It is far too comforting for the rest of us to see them all as monsters."

Read “Guarding the Truth,” by Alix Christie

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