February Shadows (German: Februarschatten) is a 1984 historical novel by award-winning Austrian author Elisabeth Reichart. She wrote it as a response to her discovery of the Mühlviertler Hasenjagd ("rabbit hunt of the Mühlviertel region"), a massacre on 2 February 1945 at the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Upper Austria. In the Mühlviertler Hasenjagd, the civilian inhabitants of the Mühlviertel hunted down and killed almost 500 prisoners, including men, women and children, who escaped from Special Barracks Number 20.
February Shadows tells the story of this hunt, and its repercussions, through the eyes of a young Austrian girl named Hilde. The story combines real time narrative and flashbacks: the adult Hilde recounts the story to her adult daughter, Erica. In an inner monologue, Hilde struggles with her traumatic past and scarred present. Erica's insistent questions force her mother to confront her own suppressed memories of the event.
The narrative use of fragmented sentences and stream of consciousness does not conform to the rules of traditional grammar or sentence structure. These methods encourage the reader to better understand the psyche and experiences of the protagonist. The timing of the publication is significant: during the 1980s, Austria's younger generation was trying to come to grips with their country's Nazi past. The story of a February hidden in shadows—February Shadows—forces the readers, most of whom would be Austrians, to relieve the experience of that February and thus remember a past that most Austrians wanted to suppress. In this way, it is both a culturally revealing and politically charged story.
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