The story is about a boy, named Hans Schwarz. Hans lives in the German City Stuttgart and is 16 years old. He is a student at the Karl Alexander Gymnasium-school and has no friends. One day, a new boy came in the class, Konradin von Hohenfels. Hans knew Konradin would become his friend, he liked the way he sat down, the way he selected his pencils and the way he entered the classroom. And they became friends. One day, when Konradin walked home with Hans, Hans had to invite Konradin because it was a bit odd to send him home. So Hans showed Konradin his room, his collection of knifes and elephants teeth. Konradin also met Hans' parents. A few months later Konradin invited Hans in his home. Now Hans saw Konradins' coincollection and Greek masks. But Hans never met Konradin parents. Hans' father is very polite to Konradin, because he is a 'Graf' from a very old family.
In the next schoolyear Konradin and Hans are still friends. But then Hans went to a play, Fidelio, and Konradin and his parents appeared. They waved and bent to almost everybody in the audience, like a royal family. But Konradin ignores Hans. Hans is very angry about it and he can't sleep that night. A week later he asks Konradin to explain why he didn't greet him. Konradin had hoped Hans would not ask this question, because now he has to say unpleasant things: his mother hates Jewish people, and Hans is a Jew. This happened at the end of the thirties, almost at the beginning of WOII. The Jewish people at school get bullied, also Hans. And the new history teacher explains that Germany, the land of the noble Aryan race, is threatened by dark forces. A year before the second World War really begins, Hans' father sends his son to the USA, where he can live in a safe environment and where he can go to university. His father is not afraid for his own life: he feels he is German and he wants to stay in his own country (he fought in the first World War). Hans went to the USA and lives with his uncle and aunt in New York City. He didn't like it much in America, but he went to Harvard University and graduated. Then he wants to write poems, but his uncle wants him to go to law school. Hans went to it and became a lawyer. He marries and gets a child. He is quite happy and has "everything": a few cars, an apartment overlooking Central Park and a place in the country. He also joins a few Jewish clubs. But he misses Germany. His parents are not murdered by the nazi's, his father killed himself and his wife by putting on the gas while Hans' mother was asleep.
Some years after the war Hans receives mail from his old school to subscribe for a war memorial for the boys who had fallen in the war. It has a list of names of the boys of the Karl Alexander Gymnasium, and what happened to them. He goes through the list, but avoids the names beginning with an H. Some have died in Russia, others are missing or died in Africa. A few days later he reads the list again, and at the point of tearing it up, he reads trembling the names with an H: Von Hohenfels, Konradin, implicated in the plot to kill Hitler. Executed.
Then the war began; some classmates became enemies becaus Hans is Jewish. After the war he sees a list with all the names of his old class. All of them are dead, also the ones who bullied Hans becaus of being Jewish. A few years he sees the names of his old school class again.
The main person is Hans Schwarz. In the beginning of the story he is about 16 years old, at the end about 30. Hans is Jewish, went to school, emigrated to America, went to university and became a well-doing lawyer.
Another important person is Konradin von Hohenfels. He has a Polish mother who hates Jews. Konradin and Hans became friends at school. But they broke up when the war began and Hans went to America. And Konradin has to admit Hitler doesn’t have bad ideas. So the friendship is over. After the war Hans finds out, that Konradin didn't survive the war. He was executed because he wanted to kill Hitler. His thoughts have eventually become the same as Hans' thoughts. You could say they are reunited as friends.
- Hans' parents, Jewish, committed suicide in the war. Names unknown.
- Konradins' parents, Polish mother. Names unknown.
The story describes a year in the life of Hans, from 1932 till 1933, in which his whole life changes. It is written by 'Hans', in the fifties, as he looks back on this period. The story is written in the "I"-person; I went through the whole list, but could I be certain etc.
It is not an autobiography, because the writer is much older then Hans is. But the writer uses his own experiences of the school and of Germany.
How war and politics can ruin a friendship.
PLACE & TIME
The main part of the story is set in 1932, 1933. But is it written in the fifties, so it gives a few examples of the developments till that time.
The story is situated in the German City Stuttgart and the American City New York.
AUTHOR & YEAR OF PUBLICATION
The writer's name is Fred Uhlman. The story is based on the life of the writer. It's not really an autobiography. It is called a novella: as short as a short story, but describing a longer period, like a novel.
The book was published for the first time in 1971 in Great Britain.
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