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An Austrian Jew and photojournalist who was interned at 20 different Nazi camps between 1939 and 1945, Wander (1917-2006) first published this loosely structured novel in East Germany in 1970. Spare, haunting anecdotes memorialize Jews who died senseless, undignified deaths in Nazi concentration camps. In the Hirschberg camp, Mendel Teichmann, a 50-year-old atheist, keeps the other prisoners occupied with his wry tales; a Polish boy, Yossl, freezes after guards taunt him and shovel snow over him. While most prisoners gulp down their meager rations, the narrator describes how "men like Pechmann... turn a crust of bread into a seven-course meal." On the eve of Buchenwald's liberation, the narrator watches Joschko, 10, patiently push food into his exhausted younger brother. The book is much more than a catalogue of horrors and of courage, as Wanders's narrator struggles to find the language to describe what he has seenn. This is a worthy addition to Shoah literature. (Dec.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Wander, who was born in Vienna and died in 2006, has crafted a series of tales that make up this novel based on his experiences in such German camps as Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Although the stories may at first seem disconnected, they form a clear picture of the camp experience. Wander brings his characters harrowingly alive, in most cases right before their deaths. Grim as it may sound, the book is a poetic meditation on human existence under unbelievable circumstances, effectively translated by Hoffman. It is remarkable that beauty can come out of such horror. A map is provided showing the actual paths of the forced marches that took the author and so many others from one infamous Nazi detention site to the next. Originally published to little attention in East Germany in 1971 where Wander was living, it was republished in a reunited Germany in 2005. The ennobling account of this witness deserves the widest audience. [See Prepub Alert, LJ8/07.]
Posted August 12, 2010
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