Overview (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
Badenheim 1939 displays a sequence of both realistic and symbolic events beginning in the early spring of 1939 in the Austrian resort town of Badenheim and ending with the deportation of the Jews in late fall of the same year. A third-person narrator, in detached and understated style, reports the steps taken by the Sanitation Department to gain control of the town and abridge the freedoms of its inhabitants while revealing how specific people react to each succeeding deprivation.
The novel opens in 1939, amid swirls of unidentified rumors, as a foreboding, uneasy spring returns to Badenheim with the sound of country church bells ringing, two Sanitation Department inspectors examining a flow of sewage, and Trude delirious with a haunting fear that is also beginning to infect her husband. Shortly after the arrival of Dr. Pappenheim, the director of the summer festival, the perennial vacationers arrive and the town is abuzz with activity as the city people, anxious to relieve themselves of worry and the memories of an unusually strange past winter, stream toward the forest.
With the arrival of the feisty musicians, the vacationers wildly vent their emotions on liquor and pastries, and an inspector from the Sanitation Department appears at the pharmacy, asking peculiar details about the business and taking measurements with a yardstick. As time passes, Trude worries even more about her daughter, Helena, who married a non-Jewish military...
(The entire section is 2323 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In early spring, the impresario Dr. Pappenheim returns to the Austrian resort town of Badenheim. As usual, he worries whether the performers, especially Mandelbaum, will appear as promised, and whether the festival will be successful. Soon, guests begin to arrive. To Trude, the pharmacist’s wife, they look pale, like patients in a sanatorium. To her, everything looks “poisoned and diseased.”
The next day, a sanitation department inspector visits the pharmacy. Although Martin, the pharmacist, does not know why the inspector is there, he feels guilty. All over Badenheim, investigators from the sanitation department measure things, erect fences, and put up flags. Porters unfold rolls of barbed wire and put up cement pillars. People take off winter clothes and put on sportswear.
At April’s end, the twins, who recite from the works of Rainer Maria Rilke, arrive. Dr. Shutz begins following a schoolgirl. Frau Zauberblit, who has left a tubercular sanatorium, talks with Leon Samitzky, a musician who is homesick for Poland. Professor Fussholdt stays in his room reading proofs of his latest book while his wife sunbathes and hunts for amorous adventures. The twins rehearse. Dr. Pappenheim receives a telegram announcing that Mandelbaum is ill and will not arrive.
In mid-May, an announcement demands that all Jewish citizens register with the sanitation department before the end of the month. A rumor circulates that they are being sent...
(The entire section is 1312 words.)