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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 256

Badenheim 1939 is a 1978 novel by Israeli writer Aharon Appelfeld. It is the fictional story of Jews attending an arts festival in an Austrian town prior to the start of the Holocaust.

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The story's main character and chief protagonist is the festival's organizer, Dr. Pappenheim. Pappenheim is consummately cheerful and is able to find increasingly outrageous excuses for the foreshadowing that occurs throughout the story. Indeed, most of the characters in Badenheim 1939 share a common lack of understanding as to the coming events; this is presented by Appelfeld as disbelieving indifference rather than ignorance. For instance, as barbed wire begins to appear and the sanitation department starts requiring registration of the town's inhabitants, Pappenheim continues as if nothing significant is happening.

Trude is another principal character and is the first one to which the reader is introduced when she is found delirious in bed. She is the wife of Martin, the pharmacist, who is self-effacing and dedicated to Trude's welfare.

Professor Fussholdt is a holiday-maker in the town who has been working on a book. He is presented as hostile to "everything considered Jewish" but, once his work is complete, "the bitterness and mockery ... [was] buried in his book," and his attitude transforms. Fussholdt is married to Mitzi, who is presented as vain and vapid, described at one point like "an empty vessel."

Other characters in the novel include Leon Samitzky, Frau Zauberbilt, Dr. Schutz, Karl, and Lotte, plus a large number of minor characters in the form of the artists and musicians performing at the festival.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 772

Dr. Pappenheim

Dr. Pappenheim, a hotel “impresario” and director of the summer festival of performing arts at the Badenheim resort. Encouraging and accommodating, he works very hard at providing the hotel guests with the best entertainment. His attitude is quite positive, and when the Jews face deportation to Poland, he looks forward to a new and exciting life in a new land, feeling that no real life remains in Badenheim.


Trude, the pharmacist’s wife. She is a sickly woman who worries constantly that her son-in-law Leopold beats her daughter Helena. Haunted by a hidden fear, she fades into hallucinations about ferocious wolves. Her hallucinations are replaced by childhood memories of Poland, and she believes that all will be well when she, her husband, and her daughter reach Poland.


Martin, the pharmacist. He is a sorrowful man who constantly looks after his sick wife, to the point of ultimately absorbing her sickness. He is forever promising her that all will be well, despite his own anxieties.

Leon Samitzky

Leon Samitzky, a Polish musician who has wonderful memories of his childhood in Poland. He longs to return to his homeland and stirs feelings of melancholy and nostalgia in Dr. Pappenheim with his stories of his childhood. A heavy drinker who is always in debt, he looks forward to deportation to Poland.

Professor Fussholdt

Professor Fussholdt, a vacationer at the resort and a famous historian. Hostile to everything Jewish, he denounces such figures as Theodor Herzl and Martin Buber. His entire stay in Badenheim is spent reviewing the proofs for his latest book.

Mitzi Fussholdt

Mitzi Fussholdt, the very young wife of Professor Fussholdt. A vain and unfaithful woman, she is interested only in clothes and cosmetics, and she understands nothing of her husband’s work. She is saddened at finding no friends or lovers in Badenheim and develops nightmares as a result of her fear of deportation.

Frau Zauberbilt

Frau Zauberbilt, an escapee from a nearby sanatorium. She is divorced. She is happy until she falls ill; she then begins to cling to her belief in an...

(The entire section contains 1028 words.)

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