Summary

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Badenheim 1939 was written by Aharon Appelfeld and published in 1980. The novel is set in the small spa town of Badenheim in Austria, not far from Vienna. It is late spring, and the villagers are readying accommodations for the annual summer visitors. We soon meet these visitors, who are mostly Jewish, as they arrive in turn. The pharmacist in the town, Martin, is the main character in the novel. As summer festivities begin, local authorities from Vienna show up and begin to flex political muscle; at first, Martin and the others believe that the government has arrived to help them with crowd control for the town's annual music festival. However, they are soon told that all Jews must register with the government because they will soon be transferred to Poland. As the townspeople await their fate, nearly everyone becomes depressed and sullen, and some of the older and sicker people die. All the while, more people keep streaming into Badenheim, until the day when all the Jews are all loaded into "four filthy freight cars" at the train station.

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