Page 38 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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32
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
There was once a toystore owner; his name was Sigismund
Markus and among other things he sold tin drums lacquered
red and white. Oscar, above-mentioned, was the principal
taker of these drums, because he was a drummer by profes­
sion and was neither able nor willing to live without a
drum. . . .
They, the same firemen, whom I, Oscar, thought I had es­
caped, had visited Markus before me. . . . I found them still
at play when I, also through the window, entered the shop.
Some had taken their pants down and had deposited brown
sausages in which half-digested peas were still discernible
on sailing vessels, fiddling monkeys and on my drums. . . .
Outside, it was a November morning. Besides the Stadt-
Theater, near the streetcar stop, some pious ladies and
strikingly ugly young girls were handing out religious tracts,
collecting money in collection boxes, and holding up be­
tween two poles, a banner with an inscription quoted from
the 13th chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians
“Faith . . . hope . . . love . .
He’s coming, He’s coming. Who is coming? The Christ
child, the Saviour? Or is it the heavenly gasman with the
gas meter under his arm, that always goes ticktock? And he
said: I am the Saviour of this world, without me you can’t
cook. And he was not too demanding, he offered special
rates, turned on the freshly polished gas cocks and let the
Holy Ghost pour forth.
Whereas Grass makes a German dwarf who had stopped grow­
ing at the age of three his central character, Bruno Apitz in
Nackt unter Wolfen
(Naked Among Wolves) centers his plot
around a three-year-old Jewish child. This pitiful creature has
been smuggled into Buchenwald Concentration Camp in a suit­
case by the inmate of a camp further East being evacuated in
face of the Russian advance. The secreted Jewish child exists
on two planes in Apitz’s novel; on the action-plane its arrival
confronts the members of the Buchenwald underground with
many problems.
In the case, all twisted up the little hands pressed against
his face, lay a child covered in rags. A boy, no older than
about three years. Kropinski squatted down and stared at
the child. It lay motionless. Pippig stroked the little body
with tenderness. He wanted to turn the child round, but it
seemed to resist. At last Kropinski thought of something.
“Poor worm,” he said in Polish, “where are you from?” At
the sound of the Polish words the child pushed its little
head forward like an insect that had retracted its feelers.
The narrow face already had the seriousness of a knowing