Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Heinz Huber uses the symbol of a new apartment to represent the feelings of the German people in the years of privation, fear, and misery following World War II. During the war Germany was devastated by Allied bombing raids from the west and by relentless Soviet artillery attacks from the east. Millions of German soldiers and civilians were killed, and Adolf Hitler’s dream of a German empire evaporated. The German people were in the process of trying to reconstruct their country politically, socially, and culturally while cleaning up the rubble and rebuilding their cities. Germany was split into two sections and occupied by the armed forces of the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. The Cold War was threatening to erupt into a nuclear holocaust, and Germany was caught between the two hostile superpowers.

The people gathered at the Messemers’ new apartment represent the new middle class emerging in postwar West Germany, where a free-enterprise economy was gradually bringing order, prosperity, and democracy, while East Germany stagnated under the oppressive rule of Soviet Communism. The Messemers and their guests wish to avoid talking about the horrors of the past and the uncertainties of the future. What they discuss is clearly of less importance than what they carefully avoid; they are afraid of all the emotions that lie just below the surface, emotions that include guilt, humiliation, anger, bewilderment, and grief. All of...

(The entire section is 497 words.)