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"Comedy in a Minor Key" and "Death of an Adversary"

Recently, Farrar Straus and Giroux re-issued a pair of novels by a Jewish physician who is more than a century old. He was born in Berlin 1909, escaped to Holland in 1936, served in the Dutch resistance, and after the war became a physician/psychoanalyst specializing in the treatment of war-traumatized children. Today he lives outside of Amsterdam with his wife and continues his medical practice. The re-released novels are set during the time of the Third Reich; their subject is the persecution and murder of Jews. They are brief and compressed. Yet lacking so much as a single scene of overt violence, their impact is overwhelming.

Comedy in a Minor Key, originally published in 1947, tells the story of a Dutch couple who are providing sanctuary to a middle-aged Jewish perfume salesman. When he suddenly falls ill and dies, a neighborhood doctor helps dispose of the body in a nearby park. Soon afterwards the couple realize a laundry mark on a shirt left on the corpse will point to them, and they go into hiding themselves until the danger of discovery is past and they can return to their normal lives. This is a tale told in utter simplicity against an orderly and spare Dutch lifestyle where the details of ordinary domesticity provide a jarring contrast to the dangers and brutality of life during the Occupation. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Death of an Adversary, which appeared twelve years later, begins with an unidentified narrator receiving a manuscript from an attorney after the war. It contains a first-person account of an individual's connection to Hitler, known only as "the enemy," one that begins when he is a child and the dictator a vague but disturbing presence. Slowly he grows into a real and dangerous presence that ultimately directs the movements of the boy's parents and himself. A strange account, all the more horrific for being twice removed from the reader, it is an intense, painful psychological journey of a Jewish boy growing up during the time of the Third Reich.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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