Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 357
Fritz, the adult German narrator of Friedrich, describes the experiences he shared with his Jewish best friend and upstairs neighbor, Friedrich Schneider, from 1925 until 1942. 'He remembers events of the Nazi regime from the innocent and non-judgmental viewpoint of his youth.
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Richter initially conveys the population's attitude toward Jews through the seemingly innocuous phrases Fritz's mother utters about Jews and the strong hatred his visiting grandfather and the families' landlord, Herr Resch, express. The narrative then relates the historical sequence of escalating hatred, violence, and death suffered by German Jews during the Third Reich. Although Fritz mentions that all Germans know of the "Final Solution" and concentration camps, he does not include details of concentration camp atrocities. Through his objective characterizations of people who interact with the Schneiders, the author reveals how average citizens engaged in and responded to anti- Semitism, while allowing readers to formulate their own interpretations and responses.
Richter explores the serious theme, based upon documented history, that governmental or personal hatred directed toward any group should never be tolerated. He shows that accepting even the first simple inroads of general bigotry without speaking out immediately can lead to utter debasement of personal character and self-respect, which in turn results in social and personal ruin.
Richter shows how easily the veneer of civilization and socialization can be removed from mankind. He also demonstrates that people like Fritz's parents, who passively disagree with bigoted or discriminatory practices of their government, must unite and actively fight for justice in order to maintain a safe world. To accept evil because of fear is to accept the destruction of civilization. Richter's theme applies to readers of all ages and backgrounds, especially to those who have felt the sting of discrimination and hatred. The author also keeps alive for young people a critical part of recent history by recounting the chilling events and lessons of the Holocaust. But despite the elements of historical fiction and autobiography, Friedrich presents a fragmented, incomplete view of the historical reality. As a result, the novel's impact and value could be enhanced by reading it in conjunction with a more historical account of Hitler's Germany.