Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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— T
h e
itera ture
o f
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dom with the war-time suffering of individual Germans. Walser
uses this dramatic device in
The Rabbit Race
where Woizele’s
incoherent references to his lost sons are counterpointed by the
broodings of a German woman condemned to permanent child­
lessness because her Communist husband had been castrated in
a Nazi concentration camp.
An even closer parallel of Jewish and German suffering is
drawn in Maria Mathi’s
Wenn nur der Sperber nicht kommt
(If Only the Sparrow-hawk Doesn’t Come). This novel, set in
a rural backwater, spans three generations; its point of departure
is the rivalry between the Jewess Fanny and the peasant-girl
Rosa for the love of a young farmer. This farmer really loves
Fanny but religious and family pressures on both sides compel
him to marry Rosa. Increasingly realizing the hollowness at the
heart of their marriage Rosa gradually becomes an embittered
Jew-baiter. This anti-semitism turns to dementia when her own
daughter defies her and marries Fanny’s fully Jewish son. Shortly
afterwards the Nazis come to power; the novel ends at the
euthanasia centre of Hadamar where Fanny and Rosa, the life­
long rivals and enemies, are at long last united in a dreadful
form of death—Fanny because she is Jewish and Rosa because
of her mental condition.
Another approach to the problem of overcoming audience-
reactions of embarrassed indifference (or worse), is the device
common to many authors of including representatives of the
other “good” Germany in their works, so that spectators or
readers can identify with them. It is interesting to note what
varied roles the anti-Nazis play in the creations of diverse writers.
In Maria Mathi’s novel, for instance, a handful of decent villagers
abhor what is being done to their Jewish neighbors on the
Kristallnacht and show their disapproval of the outrages by
locking themselves in their own homes and praying.
Lehmkoster in Schalliick’s novel carries resistance much fur­
ther; he only turns to prayer after his efforts at saving a Jewish
life had ended in tragic failure.
Gerstein in
The Representative
goes further still; he is shown
joining the SS to save lives by working inside that murderous
organization—yet in the end the efficacy of his efforts is no
greater than that of the pathetic Lehmkoster. The actions of
the good Germans were of considerable symbolic significance—
but in terms of actual lives saved their importance was prac­
tically nil.
It is a staggering paradox that—within the narrow compass of
the works under review—the only occasion on which good Ger­
mans are seen taking effective action occurs in Apitz’s novel