Page 26 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

Basic HTML Version

18
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
Germans as incredulous of Nazi crimes against Jews, b u t he
refuses to condone their ignorance. H e assails their feeble “We
d idn ’t persecute the Jews” as a typical German argument. “In
Germany,” writes Ott, “when the bakeries are on fire, the
butchers stand looking on, and vice-versa.”
Also published at the end of the first post-Nazi decade was
Am Grunen Strand der Spree
(All T h rough the Night), by Hans
Scholz, an art critic. I t revolved around the experiences of
Jurgen Wilm, a non-political, small factory owner, now w ith
the Army in Poland, who witnesses the m altrea tm en t of Jewish
women. “W ha t righ t has anyone to hum iliate a hum an being to
this extent?” asks Wilm. When he is threatened for taking pho to ­
graphs he asks, “If we think we are justified in taking measures
against the Jews, we shouldn’t have to hide it. O r don ’t we
think we are justified?” Though he stands by doing nothing, he
is horrified and recognizes his own guilt and responsibility.
But some writers have their heroes take action on behalf of
Jews, a situation tha t would add dramatic dimension to any
fiction. In Heinrich Boll’s
Wo Warst du Adam?
(Where Were
You Adam?) his hero after a few quick and innocent encounters
falls in love with a Jewess in Poland. They finally see each o ther
carted off in trucks which lead them, in opposite direction, to
a tragic and ironic death. Perhaps Boll sought to comment on
the bond that unites victim to victimizer. In
Feuer und Asche
(Fire and Ashes) by Felix Liitzendorf, a guilt-ridden anti-Nazi
intellectual, unhappily serving in the East, saves a Jewess from
certain death, sacrificing his own life in the process. T h e ir acts
of conscience are not designed to stress German nobility, bu t
ra the r to accentuate the contrast between what m ight have been
and what was.
Powerful Novel of German Guilt
Perhaps the most powerful novel jo ining German past and
present in gu ilt is
Der Tod in Rom .
Here, long after the end of
the war, Judejahn , an un repen tan t Nazi leader who had escaped
in the waning years of the Reich to become a m ilitary advisor
with the Arabs, has come to Rome to p lan his re tu rn to Ger­
many. He has done so at the suggestion of his brother-in-law
Pfaffrath, an upper middle-class German who once before had
helped the Judejahns to power, only then to recede cautiously
in to the background. Pfaffrath was now in the clear after the
war and has had no difficulty becoming the mayor of his town.
Jude jahn ’s wife also joins them. She is still morosely dedicated
to her Fiihrer and blames her husband for no t following him
into Walhalla. Present also is Jud e jahn ’s son, who has become