Page 28 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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20
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
Heinrich Boll’s
Billiard um halb zehn
(Billiards at H a lf Past
Nine) and especially
Ansichten eines Clowns
(The Clown) stamp
him as a decidedly angry man. He is merciless in exposing the
hypocrisies of German life, especially as they relate to the past.
In “T he Clown,” Catholic Boll’s ire is vented at those who have
made a quick changeover from calling the approaching Ameri­
cans “Jewish Yankees” to becoming chairmen of the “League
for the Reconciliation of Racial Differences.” He has no illusions
about the present. “I ’m afraid,” states his clown, “of being spoken
to by half drunk Germans of a certain age, they always talk
about war, think it was wonderful, and when they are qu ite
drunk it turns out they are murderers and th ink i t wasn’t really
‘all that bad.’ ” Boll is equally aghast tha t a prom inen t Nazi who
had killed a boy, manhandled the hero, spouted anti-Jewish doc­
trines in the closing hours of the war, should have received the
Federal Cross of Merit “for his services in spreading democratic
ideas about the young.”
A Portrait of German-]ewish Relations
The dishonesty of the erstwhile Nazis is only equalled by
their impertinence. T h e following passage, in a way, summar­
izes the po rtra it of German-Jewish relations in the contemporary
German novel:
I recalled having met him (the Nazi youth leader) at one
of my parents’ At Homes; he had looked at me beseech­
ingly and shaken his head, while he was talking to a rabb i
about “Jewish spirituality.” I felt sorry for the rabbi. He
was a very old man, with a white beard and very kind, and
innocent in a way tha t worried me. Of course, H e rbert told
everyone he met tha t he had been a Nazi and an anti-
Semite, bu t tha t “history had opened his eyes.” And yet
the very day before the Americans marched into Bonn,
he had been practicing with the boys in our grounds and
had told them: “T h e first Jewish swine you see, let him
have it.” W ha t upset me about these At Homes of my
mother’s was the innocence of the re tu rned emigrants. They
were so moved by all the remorse and loud protestations
of democracy that they were forever embracing and rad i­
ating good fellowship.
Christian Geissler is not likely to achieve Boll’s literary power,
largely because he cannot keep adequate distance from his
subject. But few have displayed greater fire, conscience and
courage in facing the heinous crimes toward Jews.
Die Anfrage
(The Inquiry), a semi-documentary novel, keeps raising the
question just how it was possible for the then adults no t to