Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Address Unkown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor

Title: Address Unknown
Author: Kathrine Kressmann Taylor
Genre: Literary
First published: 1938

Rating: 7 out of 10

Published in 1938 for an American magazine, it is remarkable just how insightful and ominously prophetic this small book is. World War II hadn't even started yet when Taylor published it, but already it reflects the rise of the Third Reich and the growing hostility toward Jews in Nazi Germany.
Before reading this, it had been my impression that the Holocaust was mostly kept a secret during the war years, or at least heavily watered down, largely due to German propaganda showing videos and photos of happy, healthy Jewish families in clean, functional housing estates. But if an American writer knew about the first tremors of the Holocaust before it even began, maybe I've been misled? I'll have to do some research.

Address Unknown is written entirely in the form of fictional letters sent back and forth between two old friends. The first is Martin Shulse, a man rising in the Fuhrer's ranks in Germany. The second is Max Einstein, a German Jew living in America. At first the exchanges they share are warm and friendly, exactly what you would expect from two friends. But as the Nazi feeling in Germany grows, Martin comes to share his country's prejudices and becomes increasingly hostile toward Max, and the correspondence eventually ends with both men's lives being destroyed.

This book was very interesting, and I thought that the sobering ending was a good one. It was left slightly open for you to wonder about.

This book seemed very realistic to me, as if it could have been actual letters someone found. Surely, this was a situation experienced by many during the years leading up, and during, World War II. I knew it was coming, but I still felt surprised and betrayed when Martin tells Max that Jews are "a sore spot to any nation."

An interesting, sobering read.