This 83-page novella is, quite simply, perfection.
It’s the story of the friendship between a Jewish boy, Hans Schwarz, and the aristocratic Konradin Von Hohenfels in 1932 in Stuttgart, one of the most beautiful, cultured and prosperous towns of Germany, which was gutted in the war. It’s a classic rendition of the passionate meeting of minds and ideals between two lonely boys, a friendship between the Jew of obscure history and the aristocrat whose roots go back into the historic glory of Germany:
In which of Europe’s ghettoes had my ancestors been huddled when Frederick von Honenstaufen gave Anno von Hohenfels his bejewelled hand? (9)
What happens to this friendship embodies the perversion of the culture and honour of Germany under Nazism. Quiet, measured, elegaic, it is devastating. I gasped at the scene when the history teacher intervenes in a fight between Hans and a boy who has told him to go back to Palestine.
…that’s not an insult, my dear Schwarz! It’s sound, friendly advice. Sit down, both of you, If you want to fight, fight outside as much as you like. But do remember, Bollacher, that you’ve got to be patient Soon all our problems will be solved. And now back to our history lesson. (72)
I gasped again when I read the last lines of the book. Magnificent.
Fred Uhlman Reunion (Vintage Books reissue 2006 – originally published 1971)