cover image The Seventh Well

The Seventh Well

Fred Wander, , trans. from the German by Michael Hofmann. . Norton, $23.95 (155pp) ISBN 978-0-393-06538-1

An Austrian Jew and photojournalist who was interned at 20 different Nazi camps between 1939 and 1945, Wander (1917–2006) first published this loosely structured novel in East Germany in 1970. Spare, haunting anecdotes memorialize Jews who died senseless, undignified deaths in Nazi concentration camps. In the Hirschberg camp, Mendel Teichmann, a 50-year-old atheist, keeps the other prisoners occupied with his wry tales; a Polish boy, Yossl, freezes after guards taunt him and shovel snow over him. While most prisoners gulp down their meager rations, the narrator describes how “men like Pechmann... turn a crust of bread into a seven-course meal.” On the eve of Buchenwald’s liberation, the narrator watches Joschko, 10, patiently push food into his exhausted younger brother. The book is much more than a catalogue of horrors and of courage, as Wanders’s narrator struggles to find the language to describe what he has seenn. This is a worthy addition to Shoah literature. (Dec.)