You wouldn’t have thought it possible for great works of Holocaust literature to continue to emerge, over six decades after the event. But it is. In 2006 we had Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française, famously hidden in a suitcase for sixty years. In 2004 we had Béla Zsolt’s Nine Suitcases, written in 1946-7 and first published in book form in Hungary in 1980; and now this fictionalised memoir, written by a Viennese but published in East Germany in 1971. The Communist East was like Némirovsky’s suitcase, hiding its treasures from us (as well as its horrors) for all those years. The Seventh Well may not even be the last. Is anyone looking?
Némirovsky and Zsolt (like Paul Celan and Tadeusz Borowski) were writers before the Nazi storm broke over them. Wander (like Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel) became one afterwards. An overwhelming number of Europe’s artists and intellectuals were Jews, before the Holocaust; their existence was one of the reasons for it. It is also why the Nazi genocide is one of the best reported in history.
Fred Wander, the son of poor Galician immigrants to Vienna, was an extraordinary man, and an extraordinary Jew for his time. The Jews of Europe were, as is often said, tragically obedient: in the West, out of loyalty to the laws that had freed them; in the East, out of