A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction

By Ruth Franklin | Go to book overview

8
The Ghost Writer: Wolfgang Koeppen

The novel… draws on current events, in particular recent political
events, but only as a catalyst for the imagination of the author.
Personalities, places, and events that occur in the story are nowhere
identical with their equivalents in reality. References to living persons
are neither made nor intended in what is a purely fictional narrative.
The scope of the book lies beyond any connections with individuals,
organizations, and events of the present time; which is to say, the novel
has its own poetic truthfulness.

—preface to The Hothouse

Among the many survivors who wrote testimonies immediately after the war was a man named Jakob Littner. A stamp dealer whose family originally came from Poland, he had been living in Munich for more than twenty-five years when, in October 1938, the Nazis passed a decree expelling all Jews of Polish nationality. After passing through Prague and numerous towns in Poland, he wound up, together with a few relatives, living for nine months in a hole beneath the cellar of a house on the outskirts of Zbaracz (now Zbaraz), a town in what was then Poland and is now Ukraine. Freed by Soviet soldiers in March 1944, he arrived back in Munich in August 1945, where he began to write his memoirs. Within about two months he had produced a manuscript of 183 typewritten pages, titledMein Wegdurch die Nacht: Ein Dokument des Rassenhasses (My journey through the night: A document of racial hatred).

-163-

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