Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 158

One of the most prominent themes in the novel Badenheim 1939 is the gradual progression of Jewish detention and eventual extermination. The novel is set in the Austrian town of Badenheim, which is populated mainly by Jewish people. The theme of ethnic and cultural tension is examined in the book, especially when the author details the relationship between the townspeople and the Sanitation Department, which represents the German Nazi Party.

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Another theme is the complexities of social or group psychology. When the Sanitation Department makes rapid progress in controlling the town and oppressing the citizens, the townspeople begin to blame each other for the turn of events. There was also a divide in the opinions and reactions of the townspeople. Some foresaw the dangers ahead, whilst others remained optimistic, or in denial.

Overall, the novel explores the mechanisms of authoritarianism, xenophobia and methodical ethnic cleansing. The novel is considered one of the best fictional works to depict the Holocaust.

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