On January 30 1933, a German-Jewish civil servant is sitting at his desk at the revenue and customs office, Finanzamt Baumeisterstra?e, in central Hamburg. He has just signed a number of documents and is looking out of the window when one of his staff rushes into the room without knocking and announces that Adolf Hitler has just been appointed Chancellor of Germany.
To begin with, it seems as if Hitler's appointment will not necessarily ...
On January 30 1933, a German-Jewish civil servant is sitting at his desk at the revenue and customs office, Finanzamt Baumeisterstraße, in central Hamburg. He has just signed a number of documents and is looking out of the window when one of his staff rushes into the room without knocking and announces that Adolf Hitler has just been appointed Chancellor of Germany.
To begin with, it seems as if Hitler's appointment will not necessarily affect the German-Jewish civil servant and his family to any significant extent. But then there is a fire in the parliament building in Berlin, and the changes come thick and fast. The family's eldest son loses his job with Statistisches Landesamt, the middle son is no longer able to find work as an actor, and the youngest son is excluded from university.
Our civil servant has been employed within the revenue and customs service since the year 1900, and cannot therefore be dismissed in accordance with the new law on the 'Aryanisation' of the civil service which comes into force in April 1933. In order to get rid of him, some of his lower-ranking colleagues send an anonymous letter accusing him of irregularities which he has not committed. This leads to an investigation into his reliability.
This investigation, which is preserved in the Hamburg City Archive, is a unique historical document. Working through this authentic material is like reading a novel by Franz Kafka. The book THE INVESTIGATION is based on these previously unpublished documents. In THE INVESTIGATION, the German-Jewish civil servant Gustav Wächter defends himself, and his colleagues make their accusations, in their own words.
Through THE INVESTIGATION we make the acquaintance of committed Nazi and Jew-hater Werner Herbrechtsmeyer and the untrustworthy opportunist Carl Fraude, but we also meet the close friends of the Wächter family - Franz Wegener, Hans Heinrich Sierau and Klara Henseler. We follow the anguish of Firnhaber, Gustav's superior, as he is forced to write a report on a valued colleague.
Seventy years after the events depicted in THE INVESTIGATION, Gustav Wächter's grandson, the novelist Torkel S Wächter, began looking into what had happened to his family when the Nazis came to power. In the attic of his parents' home in Stockholm he found boxes containing letters and diaries, and in the Hamburg City Archive he discovered the documentation relating to the investigation which led to his grandfather losing first of all his job, and then his German citizenship. Torkel S Wächter also found the names of his relatives on deportation lists, and learned that his grandparents had been murdered in Riga.
Torkel S Wächter grew up in the shadow of these events without really understanding his father's complex feelings towards Germany, the country where his father had lived until his twenty-sixth birthday. In order to be able to work with this highly charged material, Torkel S Wächter had to learn German and spend time living in Germany, a country he had learned to hate as a child. His research was the beginning of an unexpected progression which blossomed into an admiration for German culture and a love of the German language. Today Torkel S Wächter has regained the German citizenship which was taken from the family twenty years before he was born, and he spends a great deal of his time in the Federal Republic of Germany together with his family - Gustav Wächter's grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
THE INVESTIGATION is the second part of the work based on the wealth of material that Torkel S Wächter found in the attic of his parents' home in Stockholm. The first part, 32 POSTKARTEN, was realised as a literature and art project between March 2010 and December 2011. It evoked an overwhelmingly positive response from both readers and the media.
For more information about the book, go to: onthisday80yearsago.com
Torkel S Wächter was born in Stockholm in 1961. He studied Economic History, Development Theory and languages at the universities of Lund, Melbourne and Barcelona, as well as Jewish Studies at Paideia, The European Institute for Jewish Studies, and Architectural Restoration at The Royal University College of Fine Arts in Stockholm. Wächter is also a trained pilot; he received his pilot’s wings at Ljungbyhed Air Force Base in 1985 and was employed as a commercial pilot by Scandinavian Airlines from 1986 to 1999. Wächter’s first novel, SAMSON, 1997, builds on his experiences as an airline pilot. Wächter’s second novel, CIONA – AN AUTOBIOLOGY, 2002, tells the story of a female scientist and delves into subject matters such as reproduction and female sexuality. The novel was published under the pseudonym TAMARA T. It was widely considered to be a book written by a woman, and created a sensation as the first book ever written under an unknown pseudonym to be short-listed for the August Prize for fiction (the Swedish Booker Prize). In recent years Wächter has been working with authentic material from the Third Reich – official documents as well as private letters and diaries. THE INVESTIGATION is the second part of the literature and art project SIMULATED REAL TIME. The first part of this project, 32 POSTKARTEN, was realised between March 2010 and December 2011.