Review Badenheim 1939

badenheim 1939

The idyllic resort town of Badenheim is not all it appears to be in 1939.  Aharon Appelfeld’s novel, Badenheim 1939, is an extremely beautifully written novel, yet between the pages lurks an underlying sense of doom and gloom.

Badenheim is a resort town somewhere in Austria where Jews go to vacation.  It is known for its arts, poetry readings and for its music festival which is headed by one Dr. Pappenheim.  He has been busy trying to get musicians from Vienna to come to Badenheim to participate in the festival.  He is completely obsessed and involved with managing the event, in all of its necessary arrangements.  He is unaware of all of the subtleties surrounding him and the town.  He overlooks the extremes that are presented by the government, finding excuses for the repressive manipulations.

The residents and vacationers in Badenheim have no idea what is happening, and quite frankly, don’t seem to want to open their eyes to what is occurring around them, as Gentiles leave the town.

Gentiles leave, more Jews arrive, whether by personal desire, or by force.  The government tries to impact the Jews who are there in subtle ways, and then eventually, through more direct maneuvers, and restrictions.  The reader sees the developing circumstances, ones in which the vacationing individuals, turn a blind eye to.

The vacationers are too involved, self-centered, to face the realities of the acts that are encompassing their lives, and suppressing their movements within the town.  Even when walls are built to surround the town, they make excuses for it, unable to fathom what the realities are.

That is the tragedy within the pages.  Appelfeld is masterful in his writing, in depicting the Jews and the situations thrust upon them.  He is cognizant, as a survivor himself, what Jews encountered.  He has taken Badenheim 1939 to a new level of exploration and insight in portraying characters who are obsessed with their own lives, too absorbed with the vacation season to notice the truth behind the restrictions.

Although slim on pages, it is nonetheless extremely forceful in its message.  We know what occurred, we know the horrors, atrocities and defining moments of World War II and the Holocaust.

This is my second reading of this book.  I first read it in 2010.  I finished reading it yesterday, for a book club I belong to.

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