Page 34 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
go so far as to say that he is virtually desecrating the graves of
millions who have no grave.
Meincke, however, is in no way typical of the authors coming
under the general heading of this evening’s talk. Every other
German playwright or novelist whose work concerns itself with
the holocaust and with whose writings I am familiar is quite
free from Meincke’s reprehensible distortion of focus. In fact
there seems to be a remarkable unanimity of outlook among
all of them—certainly as far as analyzing the constituent elements
of German society in the Nazi era is concerned. At the risk
of oversimplification I would say that all these writers postulate
the existence of four numerically widely disparate groups, one
of which—that of the Anti-Nazis—was so ineffectual (or politi­
cally insignificant) that some writers barely mention it. The other
three, in ascending order of importance, are the philistines, the
thugs and the demons. (It should be noted that within these
three groups constituting the great bulk of the German popula­
tion, numerical strength was inversely proportionate to power
exercised, i.e. the philistines numbered tens of millions, the
thugs tens of thousands and the demons just tens—or hundreds.)
To exemplify what it meant by these rather cryptic terms
I am going to quote from a number of German writers. The
first excerpt concerns itself with philistines and is taken from
Heinrich Boll’s
Wo warst Du, Adamf
(Where were you, Adam?)
a collection of connected stories dealing with the retreat of the
German Army through Hungary in 1944.
The green furniture van had an excellent engine. The
two men in the driver’s cab who took turns at the wheel
didn’t say much to each other, but when they did speak
they spoke of little but the engine. “Goes like a bomb,” they
said now and then, shook their heads in surprise and lis­
tened, as if hypnotized, to its strong, dark, very regular
throbbing in which there was not a single false or disturbing
sound. The night was warm and dark, and the road along
which they drove continuously northwards was sometimes
jammed with army vehicles and horse-drawn carts. Occasion­
ally they had to brake sharply because they were too late in
noticing the marching columns and almost drove into a
shapeless mass of dark figures. The roads were narrow, too
narrow to let the removal van, tanks and marching columns
pass each other, but further north the road got emptier.
Here they could let the furniture van run in top gear for
long stretches at a time. The lightcones of their head-lamps
illuminated trees and houses, occasionally picking out details
from the fields stretching alongside: stalks of maize or
tomatoes. They finally halted somewhere along a side street
in a village; they unpacked their haversacks, sipped the hot