The Waitzmann clan is Catholic, of Jewish ancestry—a fact which makes its position in Nazi Germany somewhat tenuous. The racial dilemma is compounded by a moral dilemma epitomized by the two brothers, Ruprecht and Alfried. Ruprecht, the birthday king, expects all the comforts and advantages of the world to be his by right and has little sense of responsibility beyond that of the comfort and prosperity of his immediate family. He considers himself a part of the traditional German industrial elite and is not interested in becoming involved in politics. For him, the Nazi regime is at worst a nuisance which, with the advent of the war, becomes more threatening only because of its unpredictability. No matter which side wins, however, Ruprecht is determined to endure. After all, business is business. He is happy that the fighting has not led to the destruction of the Waitzmann factories. What damage occurred proved to be beneficial insofar as the bombs cleared away out-of-date buildings, and Ruprecht looks forward to replacing the demolished structures with something more modern.
Alfried shows a somewhat different personality, almost antithetical to the one of his brother. He is troubled by his country’s moral collapse but cannot decide what to do about it: whether to marry his would-be nun and embark on a life of good works or to become head of the family concern and devote himself to the pursuit of making money. “My trouble,” he says, “is that I...
(The entire section is 543 words.)