Monday, November 29

A Nazi horror novel lost for 80 years and finally recovered | Culture

Around eleven o’clock on October 29, 1942, Ulrich Alexander Auschwitz died along with 361 other refugees, most of them Jewish, on board the Boss, sunk 700 nautical miles from the Azores by the German submarine U-575. He is 26 years old. Thus ends an odyssey that began with the racial laws of Nuremberg in 1935 and that had taken this Berlin writer from one place to another, persecuted and hateSEATOthose who were his compatriots and repudiateSEATOthe Europeans whom he asked for shelter. However, without knowing it, Auschwitz had launched a message that would have a great impact in his country 80 years later. When he died he was carrying the new handwritten version of his book The passenger, published in Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States between 1938 and 1940 and ignored in Germany. Two months earlier he had written to his mother to give her directions on what to do with his editing. All of that disappeared with his death. There was, however, a typewritten copy that, after various vicissitudes, ended in the 1960s in the Archive of the German Exile of the National Library in Frankfurt. Forgotten by all, in 2018 it saw the light for the first time in Germany and became a great success with the public and critics in a country where references to Nazi horror continue to generate enormous interest.

“The novel was forgotten because no one was left alive to offer it to publishers,” explains to Ex PassS from Berlin the editor Peter Graf, responsible for the discovery and publication of this book. Also, because the topic wasn’t exactly the editors’ favorite after World War II and the Holocaust. Graf came to him thanks to the newspaper critic Haaretz Avner Shapira, who put him in touch withResellaShanghaif, Auschwitz’s niece. “When I read it I quickly realized that it was an important novel because it spoke to today’s reader. Germany, it it has been vewell-receivedved and is read as a document but also as a warning. What about those who are not victim” He Do they help or become accomplices of the aggressor” He”He asks.

An account of the hell of a Jewish bourgeois persecuteSEATOthe Nazis, The passenger (in Spain, from March 25 editeSEATOSexto Piso with translation by José Aníbal Campos) is the chronicle of a dehumanization, a concise book of denunciation with a rhythm of thriller that connects with The process of Kafka or with the works of Imre Kertész and throws agonizing questions to today’s reader.

Prisoner of War Act of Ulrich Alexander Auschwitz, writer.
Prisoner of War Act of Ulrich Alexander Auschwitz, writer. THE COUNTRY

The novel, loaded with autobiographical impressions, begins in November 1938, during the Night of Broken Glass. Its protagonist, Otto Silbermann, is a proud German, a wealthy merchant, a decorated veteran of World War I. But he is also Jewish and that is intolerable for the National Socialist system. When his partner cheats and insults him, when the bartender at his favorite bar stops serving him, when everyone turns his back on him, Auschwitz is recounting what his family suffered since 1933. The book, written in less than a month between Luxembourg and Brussels, where he had fled, shows a man who loses everything, who sinks into the material and is denied the human condition, and there Auschwitz knew what he was talking about.

After passing through France, the author flees to the United Kingdom, from where he is sent in 1940 along with 40,000 other people to the Isle of Man. He will arrive in Australia months later in the Dunera, a ship infamous for the brutal conditions of overcrowding and violence in which thousands of people were deported. Upon arriving there, internment in another prison camp awaited him. It was only in 1942 that those who enlisted to fight the Nazis began to be liberated, but Auschwitz was not a man of action, his battle was elsewhere and, nevertheless, he met his death at sea, in another attfighto flight, under fire from German torpedoes.

Trapped in his own paranoia, Silberman’s character flees into Germany, where he travels in punctual and impeccable trains, those same convoys with tight schedules that soon after would take millions of people to the gas chambers with the same precision. “Today’s readers know what happened unAuschwitz Auschwitz imagined that this could happen, but he did not know. This book could only be written after the pogroms of 1938 and it is that closeness that gives it its strength as a testimony ”, reflects Graf. Far from being a black and white story, the strength of The passenger it also lies in the narration of the effects that this flight causes on the persecuted, someone who comes to hate himself and his people, a human who can be mean if it helps him survive, who finds in himself the defects of the other.

“How will all this end? You feel helpless, like a little child. Who would have thought? What a thing. In the middle of Europe. In the 20th century ”, the author assures through the mouth of its protagonist, in a moment of spAuschwitzpair. “Auschwitz managed to make the unspeakable visible by telling the fate of an individual. Readers have managed to transfer its meaning to the present with the questialways behaveeach behave always in the backgroundGraf says. “I really think there is something in this book that can mAuschwitzucceed,” Auschwitz said to his mother in a letter in 1939. He was right, even if it was 80 years later.

A ghost job

Auschwitz’s notes and letters to his mother and the fact that he died taking with him a new version of The passenger indicate that the author still wanted to make changes. When Graf, a specialist in diving in archives and rescuing unknown texts, obtained the only copy in German, he contacted the family to obtain their permission and edit it. “The story remains exactly the same,” he assures when asked about the differences with the original. “It’s more of a question of rhythm and sound. I have only changed stylistic aspects and eliminated redundancies “says the editor, who believes that the triumph of his work comes” when nobody can perceive it. “

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