The fictional account of events in the Austrian mountains (Tirol) in the summer of 1934 is directly related to the political events of the period. These include the rise of the Nazi Party in Austria and the murder of the Austrian chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuss, on July 25, 1934, by right-wing elements undoubtedly encouraged and financed by the German chancellor, Adolf Hitler, who was eager to annex Austria to the German Reich.
A country doctor has injured his knee while climbing at night with a group of local men near his mountain chalet. As his injury may take weeks to heal, he requests a student-doctor from the hospital in Vienna to help service his patients. When the young doctor arrives, his appearance is noted with disapproval by the country physician’s wife. His “alien” appearance indicates his Semitic origin, his “black smooth hair . . . the arch of his nose.” However, both the doctor and his pet red fox seem relatively unaffected by the student-doctor’s racial origins and initially accept him. The country doctor is more sophisticated than his wife. He has traveled widely and lived in large cities throughout the world, and thus tends to reserve judgment even while agreeing with her that an urban, Jewish physician will not be easily integrated into the society of this isolated mountain valley. The student-doctor, Dr. Heine, tries hard to cooperate with both the doctor and his wife, who assists him as his nurse. He listens carefully to instructions, “taking it all in with interest and respect.” Dr. Heine even enlists the sympathy of the doctor’s wife when his clothes are accidentally burned by the sterilizing lamp during a dental operation.
Dr. Heine gives no cause for criticism in his manner or his conversation. He solidifies his bond with his mentor by demonstrating his interest in high culture: music, painting, and books. The older man, forced to be...
(The entire section is 778 words.)