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In the middle of the 20th century Vienna began the transformation from post-imperial oddity to a new sub-imperial status as a satellite of Berlin under Nazi control. Am Spiegelgrund clinic, an institution in a garden suburb of the city, was apparently well-intentioned: both a reform school for lost, wayward boys and girls, and a clinic for chronically ill or malformed children. However, its doctors, nurses and teachers created a monstrous parody of the institution’s benign-sounding brief, as instructed by the Nazi regime’s euthanasia programme, devised to eliminate ‘physically, mentally and racially inferior stock’.
Through the eyes of an inmate, Adrian Ziegler, and a nurse, Anna Katschenka, Steve Sem-Sandberg, author of the award-winning The Emperor of Lies, explores an intolerable chapter in Austria’s past. An absorbing, overwhelming novel, rich in incident and character, The Chosen Ones is obliquely illuminated by the author’s sharp sense of the absurd. Passionately serious, meticulously researched, it is an invaluable case study of oppression and injustice.