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A terse, raw-nerved account of a society in rot and the agony of a young German lawyer--a privileged, yet ordinary man who is forced to deal with monstrous aberrations from his cherished, decent norms during the early days of Hitler's regime. Dr. Hans Bauer, devoted to his promising career and coolly certain of his life style and values, returns to Germany after a vacation in Switzerland with disturbing knowledge: his great-grandfather was Jewish, and Hans is now officially a non-Aryan. But though Hans has ""never liked"" the Nazis, he still feels utterly German: ""No one could make a Jew out of me."" And as Hans witnesses with bewilderment and horror the manic savagery of the Nazis, he--along with a mistress, friends, and acquaintances--accepts the accelerating corruption of civic and moral law. A Jewish partner in Hans' firm is murdered, his wife and a devoted (Aryan) companion abused; torture transforms a young girl's face to a yellow skull; an adolescent boy reports his parents to the Party and both are killed; there is a smell of burning flesh on the streets; and a Party-connected boor, Koenig, is forced into the law firm's partnership--though he's temporarily held in check by the heroic decency of Hans' partner Klaus, a member of the Junker elite that ""fights the Nazis with their own weapons. . . at least for a while."" Worst of all, Hans' secret of the blood has been appropriated for extortion by Andriani, a lupine Party official; and, trapped by terror, he finds himself deliberately choosing a Nazi ""flexibility"" of mind. Finally, however, his conscience trips him into resistance and terrible torture. A deceptively simple narrative, thoroughly readable, which highlights the terror of choice when average people find themselves helpless before those in power and manage ""to still the screams and the voice of their own consciences.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Atheneum