A BOY IN THAT SITUATION: An Autobiography by Charles Hannam


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Like many German Jews in the Thirties, Karl's well-to-do Essen banker family considered themselves more German than Jewish. But as one of the few Jews allowed into the select gymnasium, Karl is frequently reminded that ""a boy in your situation"" can't afford a false step. Karl took many--he goofed off in math, failed to show up for detention, intercepted marl and report cards, and behaved no better at home, where he perpetually lied, teased the maids, stuffed himself with sweets, and stole money from his parents for more. Besides being unusually honest about his less than lovable behavior, Hannam remembers his childhood and adolescence in vivid detail; the ominous escalation of anti-Semitic activity no more intensely than such unsifted domestic minutiae as Karl's aversion to washing, his relatives' visits, and above all the food--rich excesses of it, described attentively whatever the occasion. This odd lack of emphasis might be explained by the fact that Karl's (read Hannam's) father protected him from fear as much as possible; whatever the reason, his memoir has less focus and direction than Ilse Koehn's equally honest and immediate Mischling, Second Degree (1977). But even Karl can't be protected for long, and before he is sent to England (the last third of the book describes his various placements there), there is a night of raids by police, storm troopers, and SS, with father hiding in the attic, the bank ransacked, friends' houses burning, and Karl's old grandfather humbly serving wine to the invaders amidst the broken Spode. Such situations have their own inevitable impact, and they are precisely recalled in the rounded context of one boy's early adolescence.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row