Literature of the Holocaust
maintained by Al Filreis
Badenheim and Berlin
Appelfeld's novel about the Jewish population in the Austrian summer resort town seems to parallel another population during the same time period. Their irrational admiration for law and order, their flagrant denials of reality and their willingness to turn on one another turns the entire story to an allegory depicting the actions and thoughts of the average Nazi or pro- Fascist citizen.
Trude's illness reflects the feelings of post-World War I Germany, a world that was "poisoned and diseased" from the point of view of a nation that considered itself "captive and abused" (p.3). The pastry shop owner's virulent denial of the two prostitutes, Sally and Gertie, seemed to imply Germany's denial of her defeat as a nation in the Great War, and the willingness of her citizens to cast blame on someone else for what was happening to them. Dr. Pappenheim's desperate groping for an order in the chaos of the town also parallels the German or Austrian who was trying hopelessly to find stability and reason behind their horrible fates during their Depression in the 1930's. In general Dr. Papenheim's unreasonable desire for a "schedule" or timetable by which everything could be ordered illustrates the vulnerability that people of this culture, where everyone's "timetable was in a muddle" (p.5), had to the appeal of Fascism. Dr. Papenheim's relationship and attitudes towards the musicians is in many ways the attitude that the average German citizen displayed toward the upper echelons of the military order, in that the average musicians and conductor were self-serving and lazy. Many Germans felt after the Great War that somehow the generals and marshals had let them down, as the musicians and artists had consistently let down Dr. Papenheim in past years. His willingness to indulge them reminds one of the willingness of the German citizenry to give up their sons to the cause of the Kaiser, who in the end "without . . . [his] . . . uniform . . . looked unimpressive" (p.9). The musicians fail in the end to bring about the Festival, as in the minds of many German citizens the Kaiser's military order lost the war due to its corruptions and foolishness. The willingness of the people not only accept but to actively support the policies of the Sanitation Department is reminiscent of the indulgence given to the Reich, especially near the end when German families were giving up their sixteen and seventeen-year-old-sons to a crumbling government. "According to the regulations of the Sanitation department [you have to register]. A fine department, a government department whose jurisdiction has been extended in recent months" (p.22). Poland and the various slogans on pages 29-30 represent the various promises made by the creators of the "Thousand-Year Reich" whose false appeal kept the citizens supportive of a destructive regime. The willingness near the end of the people to rob Martin the pharmacist's goods and the pastry shop owner's hatred of Pappenheim shows the German willingness to turn on one another and place blame, as in the cannibalistic last months of the Reich. The yanuka then becomes if not Adolf Hitler in person, certainly his government, which was indulged as a "child prodigy" (p.5) who becomes used to "accepting . . . presents as his due" (p.135).
The finding of this analogy within a story about Jews in Germany is a disturbing one because it brings to light how pro-Fascist many European Jews were and how this contributed to the success of the Reich in persecuting them. It has been seen not only in the behavior of not only of individual characters but in many of the holocaust testimonies already seen of their willingness to abandon other Jews to their fates, as long as they themselves were safe; it has also been illustrated how many Jews made great efforts not to make themselves like other victims but to dissociate themselves from them, as in several characters obstinate distinction between Austrians and Jews. This fact, that there were many Jews who were perfectly willing to let other Jews be persecuted as long as they were safe, made much of the Jewish population partners, not merely accomplices, in the Nazi enterprise.
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