Page 25 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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paren tal order. By and large they were too young to understand.
They had also seen war in to which this Nazism had thrust them
and the ugliness of which became manifest on the Eastern front
or in bombed ou t cities at home. Hence it was the war novel
which unmistakably dominated German letters in the first ten
years after Hitler. Philosophically the early war novel was often
a reaction against the charge of German collective guilt. Among
those defending the German people as such was Hans Werner
R ichter whose
Die Geschlagenen
(Beyond Defeat) and
Sie fielen
aus Gottes Hand
(They Fell from God’s Hand) advanced the
thesis that leadership had been to blame on both sides and no t
the mass of people. German leadership, of course, had been espe­
cially guilty and R ichter was hoping for a Nazi defeat. But he
had wished for defeat for the sake of the German people who
deserved better than Hitlerism with which they had saddled
themselves. In “They Fell from God’s Hands” the failure to
distinguish between degrees becomes almost unintelligent.
R ich ter compares Israel’s a ttitude towards the Arabs with those
of the Nazis toward Jews. Yet his Jew, Salomon Galporin, is the
most sympathetically delineated character in the novel. R ich ter’s
own political position could not be questioned. As a founder
of the
Feuerwehr,
an organization of intellectuals fighting the
resurgence of Nazi ideals and co-founder of the socially liberal
Group 47 to which nearly all significant West German writers
belong, his own sympathies were clearly established.
Some war novels much less honestly devolved the bulk of guilt
on Hitler, advancing the usual apologetics. W ha t could the
individual soldier do against a powerfully entrenched, ruthless
party which terrified even generals and army? Nevertheless, their
chief purpose was hardly a moral whitewashing job. Again, Jews
are used as symbols and tools and are no t generally identified
with names. T he war novelists concede frankly tha t soldiers and
civilians usually accepted the war and H itler while the war was
going well. In
W ir werden writer marschieren
(We Shall March
Again) Gerhard Kramer offers a transition from the early
apologetics to the later acceptance of guilt by expressing fears
over the recrudescence of the spirit which had led Germans
astray previously. He stresses tha t for many Germans, H itle r’s
crime had been the fact of failure.
In general, the war novel depicts the German soldier as a non ­
political being. But in several novels of the Eastern front, they
see the dead bodies of disfigured Jews on the streets of Polish
cities. They tu rn away in shame and disgust and wonder about
the sense of such actions committed in their name. But by 1943
they have witnessed enough such scenes to have become impervi­
ous to them. Wolfgang O t t’s
Haie und Kleine Fische
(Sharks
and L ittle Fish), a novel of submarine warfare, presents some
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