Weitz, the Berlin-born fashion designer and sometime writer (The Value of Nothing), here makes an earnest, if unexciting,...



Weitz, the Berlin-born fashion designer and sometime writer (The Value of Nothing), here makes an earnest, if unexciting, attempt to dramatize one of postwar fiction's most worked-over issues: the behavior of the ""good German"" under the Nazis. (In the past few months alone, at least three novels--The Orchids, Search in Gomorrah, If This Be Glory--have dealt with similar material.) In 1954, Karl-Heinz ""Chaffy"" Dom is the posh N.Y. representative for a German luxury-car firm; he's even planning to become a US citizen. But when the Department of Immigration suddenly threatens Dom with deportation--because of his covered-up ""Nazi"" past--the rest of the novel becomes a flashback, detailing Dorn's life and career under Hitler. In the early 1930s, as a young department-store worker, Dom has a charming Jewish boss; he's sure, then, that Hitler's rhetoric refers to foreign Jews. But the mid-'30s bring some disillusionment on that score--and, while wife Hilde rages over anti-Semitic injustices, Dom (now a rising auto-biz PR exec with an indirect Nazi Party affiliation) must content himself with passive virtue: ""So long as the two of them . . . did no Jew any harm, that ought to be enough."" Thus, Dorn socializes with an unimpressive Hitler, shuts a blind eye to Hilde's dangerous underground activities (yet won't participate), stands by as Jewish friends disappear, joins the Army when war comes, becomes a top Rommel aide . . . always in internal conflict. (""The Hitler Bonzen were rotten! But what could he do about them? Germany was more important than the Nazis!"") But ultimately, however, taken as a POW in 1943 North Africa, Dom will save the life of a young German-Jewish-American OSS agent (seemingly modeled on the young John Weitz) who's posing as a German POW. The 1954 verdict, then? Well, even a Nazihunting Jewish congressman agrees that Dom is ""pretty good material for American citizenship. In fact, a lot better than some of the shits in the Klan."" Filled out with well-meaning material from the library of Third Reich clichÉs (""Much too late, Berliners became ashamed of the atrocities in their midst""): a slow, unsubtle variation on a shopworn morality play--but some of the details are intriguing (the auto biz especially), and perhaps Weitz's glamorous image will attract a readership that's relatively unfamiliar with the history here.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982