The mill on the river

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The mill on the river (original title Grenser ) from 1999 is a historical novel by the Norwegian writer Roy Jacobsen .

The translation into German was done by Gabriele Haefs .

German war guilt, the downfall of the 6th Army , the fate of people who live near borders, traumatic war experiences and the European post-war period are the big themes of this novel. According to Norwegian literary scholar Per Thomas Andersen, The Mill on the River is one of the author's best historical novels, which is also a thought-provoking Teseroman about borders, crossing borders, protection within borders, and the accidental when drawing borders. He also claims that the novel is about national and geographical boundaries, or boundaries between people and boundaries that you have to set for yourself.


  • Peter Hebel survived the Stalingrad pocket . He goes into Soviet captivity and dies in a confrontation between prisoners. In contrast to General Paulus , Peter dies as a Hitler supporter.
  • November 27, 1942. The German Belgian Markus Hebel, intelligence lieutenant in the Wehrmacht , is transferred to the headquarters of Army Group Don to see Field Marshal Erich von Manstein . My son is in there , says Markus Hebel, referring to the Stalingrad boiler. We in the Army High Command live in heaven , it goes on, compared to the poor wretches out in the field. Markus failed in raising his son Peter. Peter doesn't have a clear view. Now it is too late. The boy wears the immaculate uniform of tyranny . Those in the army command hear that the news man Markus wants to establish radio contact with his prodigal son in the boiler and tell him that on the head. Markus suspects that he is supposed to be spying on General Paulus about his son. Would you like to know what is going on in the head of the encircled general?
  • December 18, 1942. At least Markus is allowed to accompany a news colonel on a flight into the boiler. While that colonel is conferring with Paul, Markus has time and promptly asks about his son. Without further ado, he is led to Peter. Markus recognizes Peter and is shaken to the core. Is Manstein coming? the son asks first. Mark sees that twitch in the son's face; that twitch he has already seen in Paul's face. But any neurosis at the front is called cowardice. She is punished with death. In the cauldron, Markus meets a German Madonna painter. Some soldiers collapse when they look at such a picture. But afterwards they get up like newborns and listen to Hoth's fog thrower . An encircled major goes wild with enthusiasm when he learns from Markus that the news colonel is negotiating with Paul. When saying goodbye, Markus promises his son that those who are surrounded will be cut out. Peter hugs the father. During the return, Markus' eyes fall on the iron-gray face of the news colonel .
  • A lot happened up until December 24, 1942. Manstein wants to break a breach from the south to relieve the 6th Army. The corridor would force an outbreak, whether Paul wanted it or not, it would open all the floodgates of history and free Stalingrad from its many unhappy souls, lead them in a hectic march across the steppes and into the hot baths, to safety and to the Meat pots. That fails. The reader can follow how the spearhead of the 11th Panzer Regiment under Colonel von Hünersdorff is slowly being crushed by overpowering Soviet forces. Finally the colonel gave orders in a bitter cold from a snowy hole in the ground under his armor. The fuel has run out. Hitler decorates the death row inmate.
  • Lieutenant Markus has special skills as a person. Manstein recognizes them. The field marshal says to the lieutenant: You will write the withdrawal order for Hünersdorff yourself if you decide to do so, but don't be afraid, I'll sign it. A surprising turn that Manstein justified: I need an intelligent, humane civilian, an educated, bright man with a solid foundation in the Christian European tradition, with ethical values ​​and a split relationship to heaven and earth, a farmer and an artist, an inventor and an ordinary man, I need a common denominator like you, Hebel, with three languages, two nationalities and an eternal life, with more empathy than logic. Markus plays the judge of history and Manstein signs.

Style and themes

  • The Stalingrad novel begins in the middle of the book. The voluminous opening credits illuminate the origins of the main characters. The present and the past are blended throughout the text. As in other Jacobsen books, human fates are interwoven in ways that are difficult to see at first. The "blind man" from the beginning of the book is the main character of the Stalingrad part.
  • The idyllic title Die Mühle am Fluss hides the actual topic of German war guilt . In the last few years a lot of documentary material about the sinking of the 6th Army became known. The author, a Norwegian born in 1955, tells how a Belgian in the service of the Germans had to witness that apocalypse. For example, a German is flown out of the cauldron after the rats have eaten him during the slow freezing process. He knows of his impending death and smells the stench of his wounds. Finally he curses the encircled general who has taken champagne into the kettle for himself.
  • Despite the complicated sentence structure, Jacobsen manages to bring the hell of Stalingrad to life.

Editions in German

Individual evidence

  1. Andersen, Per Thomas, 1954-: Norsk litteraturhistorie = . 2nd Edition. Universitetsforlag, 2012, ISBN 978-82-15-01704-4 , p. 582 : “First and foremost he has the en tankevekkende ideroman om grenser, overskridelse av grenser, enclosed inside for grenser and the field ved grensesetting. [...] The trader om nasjonale, geografiske grenser [...] grenser mellom mennesker, and om grenser som jeget må set for seg selv i forhold til å skulle level med egne erfaringer. "