Reviewer Sandra Shwayder Sanchez: Sandra is
a retired attorney and co-founder of a small non-profit publishing
collective: The Wessex Collective with whom she has published two short fiction collections
(A Mile in These Shoes and Three Novellas) and one
Her most recent novel, The Secret of A Long Journey is soon to be released by Floricanto Press in April 2012 and her first novel, The Nun, originally published by Plain View Press in 1992 is being reissued in a 2nd Edition with additional material by PVP in March 2012.
Author: Torkel S. Wachter
Author: Torkel S. Wachter
For anyone interested in
the history of Germany in the 1930s and in what happened to the Jews
of Germany, this is an important work to read.
Interspersed with the story of what happened to the author’s
family in 1933 (and the impact of those events) are little known
facts about Hitler himself and his rise from a man whose application
for citizenship was twice denied to the leader of the country.
The title refers to an investigation into the author’s
grandfather’s political attitudes and activities while he works as
a senior tax assessor for a government that is just beginning its
journey of anti-semitic persecution that will become famous in
history as the holocaust.
Gustav Wachter cares about the working
people, the people most affected by the financial depression that
followed World War I in Germany. There are those who call him a
Marxist and indeed he does switch his political party affiliation to
the Socialist Worker’s Party which he feels is more closely aligned
with his principles. This is the excuse, the real reason his
supervisors wish to terminate him is his religious affiliation.
Gustav Wachter is “that Jew” to some who would blame him for their financial problems. The work consists of translations of actual letters from “witnesses” as well as letters from Gustav who writes in his own defense. The story also follows the thoughts and hopes and plans of his son Walter who keeps a journal in which he works on various literary projects. He is described as extremely ambitious and intellectually precocious as well as hopeful that his dreams will be fulfilled and pursues his ambitions by seeking training placements that will useful for his studies and pursuit of a profession. He describes his ambitions for his life this way:
“There is only one thing I want: Being. I want Being. I want to be necessary. I want to be acknowledged.” (from journal entry made on Thursday 2/16/33) a couple of weeks later he will say that he wants one day to be able to say that he lived. And in April he will write this about history:
“to put such a question at all is already to enter the field of philosophy. Philosophy appears to reign as goddess over scholarship. If one wishes to ground something then it is always a matter of philosophy. Well, this is what I have found out: History is the discipline which inquires into what has happened in the past, limited to the development of a community formed by people of a particular cultural area.”
And this is what the author has done. During the course of this period of history, various members of the author’s family dispersed to safer places including South America and Sweden. He himself ultimately returns to Germany and becomes a German citizen. His closing words are noteworthy (in an historical context):
“Today Gustav and Minna have some twenty grandchildren and great grandchildren, with varying degrees of German-Jewish characteristics or Jeckischkeit, plus a growing horde of great-great-grandchildren. Their story has a beginning, but it has no end.”
This is a fascinating work of family history that sheds light on the larger, general history of a country, a culture, a time.