"As a German in Germany you have already learned so much about the second world war, thought so much about it and talked so much about it, that I would have thought: what’s left to be said?”
Nora Krug is a German-American author and illustrator based in New York whose visual memoir Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home addresses history through the murkier experience of individuals - enablers, bystanders- rather than collective gestures and memorials.
Led by Hanna Arendt’s quote “If all are guilty, no one is,” Krug’s story takes the form of an investigation. She uses family archives, firsthand accounts and cultural relics to understand the decisions made by members of her family living in Germany during World War II. She focuses on her grandfather, who worked for a Jewish employer and her uncle, an S.S. soldier killed in combat. In telling their stories she looks for the gaps, the facts and feelings that have been left unacknowledged and unstated, and why that might be so. As she confronts the past as a person who has not lived these painful events first hand, she asks urgent questions about how to remember the past in an honest and constructive way - a process that should be organic and ongoing.
Krug's most recent work includes a graphic edition of Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny:Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, which fuses Snyder's insights about on resisting authoritarianism with Krug's illustration and collage to represent the painful origins of these lessons.
“A mazy and ingenious reckoning with the past … Krug is a tenacious investigator, ferreting out stories from the wispiest hints — a rumor or a mysterious photograph … Even as she fills in the missing details, the stories are left open-ended; there is no rush to condemn or redeem, merely to get as close to the truth as possible … The wisdom of this book is that it does not claim to [wash away stains, mend scars, make whole.] The notion of ‘consolation’ is one I suspect Krug would regard with suspicion. What she seems in pursuit of is a better quality of guilt … That’s where honor seems to lie, this book suggests: in the restless work of remembering, in the looking again, the recalibration and the revision. In getting the whole picture, and getting it right.” —New York Times
Belonging was chosen as a New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2018, as one of The Guardian’s Best Books of 2018, as an NPR Book of the Year 2018, as one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Memoirs of 2018 as one of Time Magazine’s 8 Must-Read Books you May Have Missed in 2018, one of the San Fransisco Chronicle’s Best Books of 2018, and one of the Boston Globe’s Best Books of 2018. It was the winner of the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award, of the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, the Art Directors Club gold cube and discipline winner cube, and the British Book Design and Production Award.
Krug’s drawings and visual narratives have appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde diplomatique and A Public Space. Krug is a recipient of fellowships from Fulbright, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Maurice Sendak Foundation, and the German Academic Exchange Service.. Krug was named Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year and 2019 Book Illustration Prize Winner by the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Krug’s work has been exhibited internationally, and her animations were shown at the Sundance Film Festival. Krug is Associate Professor of Illustration at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.