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September 9, 2023

The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

It's the fall of 1938 and Otto Silbermann's world is turned upside down. It has become clear that Germany is no longer safe for Jews. When the pounding starts on his door, he may be too late to do anything but flee out the back door.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of World War II novel The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
April 2022; Metropolitan; 978-1250811288
audio, ebook, print (288 pages); WWII fiction

As you know, I'm a big reader of WWII fiction and in the last few years I've been seeking out books that cover aspect of the era that I haven't read before or provide a different perspective. It is the latter point that has led me to translated fiction like the Czech novel Gerta (read my review) and the Polish novel The King of Warsaw (read my review). 

Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz was 23 years old when he wrote The Passenger in 1938. He and his mother had emigrated to Sweden from Germany as his father had been Jewish. Shortly before the war broke out they settled in England, but as a German citizen, he was interned as an "enemy alien" and eventually sent to Australia. He understood too well the dangers that Jews faced in Nazi Germany and quickly wrote this novel following Kristallnacht - the Night of Broken Glass.

I was excited to read this novel and I did find parts of it interesting. Unfortunately, I did not like Otto. I found him to be a very unsympathetic character. And I tried really hard to sympathize with him. I understood that his life had been turned upside down, that his very existence is threatened. Yet, his wishy-washyness grated on my nerves. In some ways, he reminded me of Abe Weissman from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, especially Abe's behavior after he lost his job at Colombia University and Bell Labs. Towards the end of the novel, Otto took on the appearance of Tony Shalhoub in my mind's eye.

The attitudes of Otto's acquaintances and colleagues were interesting. They ranged from regrettable but unwilling to do anything to outright hostile. It was scary how many felt that stripping Jews of their rights and property (and eventually their lives) was appropriate justice for slight personal grievances that felt that they were entitled to taking everything from the Jews. It was scary because I see parallels in today's society.

While it isn't my favorite WWII novel, anyone who claims to be a WWII fiction aficionado should read it. I'm sure there aren't many novels with the perspective that Boshwitz provides.

Buy The Passenger at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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