Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 177
Set in Germany just before and during the Third Reich, Friedrich begins in 1925 with the births of the two protagonists, Fritz and Friedrich. The narrative then follows the events leading to Hitler's installation as chancellor of the German Reich in 1933, recounts Hitler's treatment of Jews as it affects the novel's characters, and ends in 1942 when all the Jews still in German concentration camps are transferred to the Auschwitz extermination camp.
The novel mentions no specific town, but the setting appears to be a representative suburb of a large city. Most of the residents know each other, and many townspeople know where Friedrich lives and that he is Jewish even before the government forces Jews to wear identifying yellow stars. Friedrich is expelled from school, cursed on the town streets, and barred from the swimming pool and theater because he is Jewish. When Friedrich appears in court, however, the judge surprisingly renders a fair decision and thus represents the single person in the town willing to risk his personal reputation and safety to defend a Jew from injustice.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 402
This piece of historical fiction effectively puts readers into the atmosphere of World War II and provokes them to think seriously about what they might have done had they been members of either Fritz's family or the Schneider family. The simple and direct language of both the narrative and dialogue speaks more profoundly through what is not said than what is said. Told from an objective, first-person point of view, Friedrich does not reveal the inner thoughts of the characters. This technique gives the portrayal of escalating violence against the Jews a sense of incompleteness that elicits strong internal responses from the readers by prompting them to supply what the characters themselves do not provide.
Because the characters are not fully rounded and the war does not change their attitudes in a recognizable way, they appear more as symbols of real people rather than individuals with distinct personalities. For example, interactions between Fritz's and Friedrich's parents remain minimal and superficial throughout the novel. Because Fritz's surname is never revealed, his family appears as an unremarkable middle-class German family whose responses typify those of the general population. Fritz's grandfather's strong anti- Semitism, Fritz's mother's slight prejudice, and the close friendship between the Jew and non-Jew in the third generation appear to represent the culture. Likewise illustrative of the German population as a whole are Fritz's family's motivations for joining the Nazi party and the rationale preventing them from active rebellion against the horrors they witness.
Herr Resch evicts and informs against the Schneiders, looting their few remaining possessions and finally committing a premeditated murder, thus identifying himself as an extreme anti-Semite. Meanwhile, the Schneiders exemplify the middle-class Jewish-German families who considered themselves German first and Jewish second and could not even imagine the depravity to which humans could sink: therefore, they died.
The novel becomes more realistic and credible because Richter reprints actual mandates issued against the Jews by Hitler and terminates the narrative before the war ends. The episodic narrative details each of the mandates and their impact on both Jews and non- Jews.
The reader should note that in 1942 Hans Peter Richter, the author himself, became part of the German Army and won medals for bravery in a three-year military career. Perhaps the ultimate meaning of the novel rests in the sequence of events that led Richter to publish Friedrich in 1961, nineteen years after the last date noted in the novel.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 50
De Montreville, D., and E. Crawford, eds. Fourth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1978. Biographical materials supplement this short autobiographical sketch translated from the German.
Evory, Ann, ed. Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. Detroit: Gale Research, 1981. This short biographical sketch covers personal and career highlights.