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The Seventh Cross (Virago Modern Classics)

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'At once a suspenseful manhunt story and a knowing portrait of the perils of ordinary life in Hitler's Germany, The Seventh Cross is not only an important novel, but an important historical document. This new, unabridged translation is a genuine publishing event' JOSEPH KANON, author of The Good German and Leaving Berlin Seven prisoners escape from Westhofen concentrati 'At once a suspenseful manhunt story and a knowing portrait of the perils of ordinary life in Hitler's Germany, The Seventh Cross is not only an important novel, but an important historical document. This new, unabridged translation is a genuine publishing event' JOSEPH KANON, author of The Good German and Leaving Berlin Seven prisoners escape from Westhofen concentration camp. Seven crosses are erected in the grounds and the commandant vows to capture the fugitives within a week. Six men are caught quickly, but George Heisler slips through his pursuers' fingers and it becomes a matter of pride to track him down, no matter what. The net is closing in. Who can George trust? Who will betray him? The years of fear have changed those he knew best: his favourite brother is now an SS officer; his lover turns him away. Hunted, injured and desperate, time is running out for George, and whoever helps him will pay with their life.The Seventh Cross is a novel that powerfully documents the insidious rise of a fascist regime - the seething paranoia, the sudden arrests, the silence and fear. It has never before been published in the UK. 'It was [Seghers] who taught my generation and anyone who had an ear to listen after that not-to-be-forgotten war to distinguish right from wrong. The Seventh Cross shaped me; it sharpened my vision' - Gunter Grass 'The material that this book is made from is long-lasting and indestructible; very few things on earth can be compared to it. It is known as justice' - Christa Wolf The Seventh Cross was written by one of the most important German writers of the twentieth century. Her aim was to write, 'A tale that makes it possible to get to know the many layers of fascist Germany through the fortunes of a single man.' She had four copies of the manuscript: one was destroyed in an air raid; a friend lost the second copy while fleeing the Nazis; another was found by the Gestapo; only the fourth copy, survived, which, fortunately, she sent to her publisher in America just before she fled Nazi-occupied France. Published in 1942, The Seventh Cross became an immediate bestseller, was made into an MGM film starring Spencer Tracy in 1944, and was one of the only depictions of concentration camps on page and screen during the War.


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'At once a suspenseful manhunt story and a knowing portrait of the perils of ordinary life in Hitler's Germany, The Seventh Cross is not only an important novel, but an important historical document. This new, unabridged translation is a genuine publishing event' JOSEPH KANON, author of The Good German and Leaving Berlin Seven prisoners escape from Westhofen concentrati 'At once a suspenseful manhunt story and a knowing portrait of the perils of ordinary life in Hitler's Germany, The Seventh Cross is not only an important novel, but an important historical document. This new, unabridged translation is a genuine publishing event' JOSEPH KANON, author of The Good German and Leaving Berlin Seven prisoners escape from Westhofen concentration camp. Seven crosses are erected in the grounds and the commandant vows to capture the fugitives within a week. Six men are caught quickly, but George Heisler slips through his pursuers' fingers and it becomes a matter of pride to track him down, no matter what. The net is closing in. Who can George trust? Who will betray him? The years of fear have changed those he knew best: his favourite brother is now an SS officer; his lover turns him away. Hunted, injured and desperate, time is running out for George, and whoever helps him will pay with their life.The Seventh Cross is a novel that powerfully documents the insidious rise of a fascist regime - the seething paranoia, the sudden arrests, the silence and fear. It has never before been published in the UK. 'It was [Seghers] who taught my generation and anyone who had an ear to listen after that not-to-be-forgotten war to distinguish right from wrong. The Seventh Cross shaped me; it sharpened my vision' - Gunter Grass 'The material that this book is made from is long-lasting and indestructible; very few things on earth can be compared to it. It is known as justice' - Christa Wolf The Seventh Cross was written by one of the most important German writers of the twentieth century. Her aim was to write, 'A tale that makes it possible to get to know the many layers of fascist Germany through the fortunes of a single man.' She had four copies of the manuscript: one was destroyed in an air raid; a friend lost the second copy while fleeing the Nazis; another was found by the Gestapo; only the fourth copy, survived, which, fortunately, she sent to her publisher in America just before she fled Nazi-occupied France. Published in 1942, The Seventh Cross became an immediate bestseller, was made into an MGM film starring Spencer Tracy in 1944, and was one of the only depictions of concentration camps on page and screen during the War.

30 review for The Seventh Cross (Virago Modern Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    lark benobi

    I just finished reading the 2018 translation by Margot Bettauer Dembo of The Seventh Cross. What was already a good novel in the old translation has become an extraordinary novel in the new translation. The author describes with exquisite and humane detail the insidious beginnings of Hitler's rise in Germany, from the point of view of ordinary Germans. It's difficult to describe just how different this novel is from most contemporary literature. It is an ensemble novel with dozens of characters, I just finished reading the 2018 translation by Margot Bettauer Dembo of The Seventh Cross. What was already a good novel in the old translation has become an extraordinary novel in the new translation. The author describes with exquisite and humane detail the insidious beginnings of Hitler's rise in Germany, from the point of view of ordinary Germans. It's difficult to describe just how different this novel is from most contemporary literature. It is an ensemble novel with dozens of characters, many of which are present for just a scene, or a paragraph. And yet each has a unique humanity. The novel does have a hero--an escaped political prisoner by the name of George Heisler--but rather than being the focal point of the story, George, and the escape path he travels through this novel, are like the loom that the real story weaves itself around. The real story here is told in the countless vignettes of ordinary human beings who are just waking up to the threat of National Socialism. They are good people, but they are "good" in ordinary and unremarkable ways. They aren't heroes as much as they are people reacting to circumstances, moment to moment, almost always surprising themselves, either with their own cowardice or with their own selflessness. The small choices people make in this time of relative peace, whether to aid an escaped political prisoner or not, whether to ignore the growing terror all around them or acknowledge it, whether to put self-interest before all else or choose some other path--all play out in myriad ways. By the end I had had many chances to ask myself the question "what would you do in that situation?" Author Seghers was a Jew and a Communist who escaped Hitler's Germany, and published this novel in Mexico where she was in exile. One of the most interesting characters to me was the only Jewish character in the novel, Dr. Loewenstein, a character who still practices medicine freely in this time in Germany's history, the mid-30's, although he is clearly an outcast; he is the doctor patients see only when the other doctors in town can't help. George Heisler comes to Loewenstein for help with a septic wound, and what is not said between the two men speaks volumes. First review, 2012: What I love most about The Seventh Cross is that it documents the insidious beginnings of unjust imprisonment and paranoia in pre-WWII Germany. Jews in the book are still relatively free but required to wear a yellow star, and the death camps have not yet been built; the victims in this book are the political prisoners, and the camps they are held in are make-shift affairs at the edge of town. Anna Seghers was Jewish and a Communist, an author who returned to East Germany after the war, and although this book was hugely popular in the U.S. just after publication and was even made into a movie starring Spencer Tracy, it fell out of print in English with the advent of the Cold War. Thank you David Godine for bringing it back.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    In Germany, before the War. Real Germans. Greta and Gerda, Fritz and Franz. Leni and Ella, Hermann and Ernst. Elsa, Liesel, Reinhardt, Alfons. Dr. Lowenstein. A shepherd, a paperhanger, a gardener's apprentice, a seamstress, a wife, friends and former girlfriends. Tell it subtly. The Heil! Hitlers! The awkward Sunday dinners when one child out of five has joined the SA. The wife who puts down her book, annoyed, when her husband comes home bringing trouble. A hand cut by glass in a fall. There were In Germany, before the War. Real Germans. Greta and Gerda, Fritz and Franz. Leni and Ella, Hermann and Ernst. Elsa, Liesel, Reinhardt, Alfons. Dr. Lowenstein. A shepherd, a paperhanger, a gardener's apprentice, a seamstress, a wife, friends and former girlfriends. Tell it subtly. The Heil! Hitlers! The awkward Sunday dinners when one child out of five has joined the SA. The wife who puts down her book, annoyed, when her husband comes home bringing trouble. A hand cut by glass in a fall. There were concentration camps before, you know, the concentration camps. In Germany, before the War. A state of terror before the worst of it. And from one concentration camp, seven prisoners escaped. Germans. The Commandant has seven trees chopped, and crosses attached, waiting for the return. Six prisoners are recaptured, or found dead. But one is alive, and running through the fear. What was it like then? And how will the paperhanger, the gardener, the shepherd, the wife react? To call this a thriller is to miss the larger point. We root for George Heisel (that seventh cross) of course, but not because of his mission, his utterances, or his flight. He's just one more pawn. Rather it's the atmosphere, a canvas. And individuals. The reader is asked, what would you do? There's also something going on here with husbands and wives that's, well, before its times. I can not recommend this highly enough. And, too, the author's Transit, an existential journey which has been gnawing at me since I finished it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

      Written from Exile When Anna Seghers published this novel in 1942, she was living in Mexico, an exile from her native Germany. A Jewess married to an Hungarian Communist, she had double reason to flee to France when Hitler came to power in 1933. And reason again in 1940, when Paris fell. Her novel, a rare German denunciation of the Nazi regime while it was at its height, was a major success when it first appeared in an abridged version, gaining further popularity with the 1944 Fred Zinnemann   Written from Exile When Anna Seghers published this novel in 1942, she was living in Mexico, an exile from her native Germany. A Jewess married to an Hungarian Communist, she had double reason to flee to France when Hitler came to power in 1933. And reason again in 1940, when Paris fell. Her novel, a rare German denunciation of the Nazi regime while it was at its height, was a major success when it first appeared in an abridged version, gaining further popularity with the 1944 Fred Zinnemann movie starring Spencer Tracy. For a summary of the plot, I can't do better than quote Wikipedia:       The story of Das siebte Kreuz is rather simple: there are seven men who have been imprisoned in the fictitious Westhofen camp, who have decided to make a collaborative escape attempt. The main character is a Communist, George Heisler; the narrative follows his path across the countryside, taking refuge with those few who are willing to risk a visit from the Gestapo, while the rest of the escapees are gradually overtaken by their hunters.       The title of the book comes from a conceit of the prison camp. The current officer in charge has ordered the creation of these seven crosses from the trees nearby, to be used when the prisoners are returned—not for crucifixion, but a subtler torture: the escapees are made to stand all day in front of their crosses, and will be punished if they falter.The novel flirts with several different genres, although it is ahead of the curve in most of them. The image above and much of the publicity for the book suggest an early iteration of the now-familiar Nazi concentration-camp tropes. These, however, are a comparatively minor aspect of the book, and the camp commandant is in fact opposed by his subordinates. There are pre-echoes of later Holocaust stories, but they are very faint; these are political prisoners, not racial undesirables. The camp escape story as a specific trope would also come into its own in the aftermath of WW2, but the hero-on-the-run genre goes back at least to the war before that, in books such as The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. By concentrating on the fate of just one man among the seven escapees, Seghers takes us deep within his mind and builds a good deal of suspense when she wants to. But the book is too long, too complex, and too unfocused to make an entirely successful thriller—and that, I believe, is because the exiled writer is also trying to do something else. To see what that is, take this random paragraph from the first chapter: As Franz was pedaling past the neighboring Mangold farm, they were in the process of setting up ladders, poles, and baskets under their mighty Mollebusch pear tree. Sophie, the oldest daughter—a strong girl, a bit stout but not fat, with delicate wrists and ankles—was the first to jump up on a ladder, at the same time calling out something to Franz. Although he couldn't make out what she'd said, he turned around briefly and laughed. He was overcome by a feeling of belonging. People who feel and act feebly will have trouble understanding him. For them, belonging means having a particular family, a specific community, or a love affair. For Franz it meant simply belonging to this bit of soil, to its people, and being a member of the morning shift cycling to the Hoechst plant, but above all it meant belonging to the living. Pages before we even see the protagonist, George Heisler, we are immersed in the pastoral landscape of the Taunus area, northwest of Frankfurt. And we shall return to this place and these people many times before the book ends; it will be a long time before we see its connection to the escape plot. It is an affectionate portrayal, nostalgic even, but appropriately so, for this is the country in which Seghers herself (real name Netty Reiling) grew up. Parts of the book at least are an exile's hymn of love to a lost paradise. As the director Fred Zinnemann, another exile, realized. Unable to film in Germany, he had to evoke the setting through painted backgrounds like the following: Most of the Zinnemann movie, though, is more urban, more noir than the book. Though Seghers too will take us into the shadows in cities such as Mainz and Frankfurt. She will introduce us to people whom George encounters, and to those who merely form part of his background. Ordinary people. SS, Gestapo, and Brownshirt characters exist, but they are not her main focus. Even when Seghers wants to show the effect of Nazi domination on the civilian population, she paints the people with greater conviction than their oppressors. They, after all, are the folk she remembers from before her exile, her friends and neighbors, her belonging. By contrast, actual life under Nazi rule is something she can only imagine, learning about it at second hand from more recent exiles. This is obviously an important book. But not a very good novel. Nostalgic love song and political thriller make awkward bedfellows. As a result, the book lacks focus. It is long. There are so many episodes. Events are not necessarily told in sequence. There is a bewildering number of characters, less than half of whom are listed in the dramatis personae at the start. The geography, sometimes exquisitely precise, is equally often confusingly vague. The mechanisms of oppression are unclear, even the way the title crosses are to be used. I was not even sure of the year in which it is set: at first I thought it must be the late thirties, but then comes a mention of the war—yet nothing of the life that Seghers portrays suggests a population at war. But remember, this is a writer writing from exile. This alone could explain a lot of the vagueness. But it also explains the love of country that suffuses everything. And, whatever its other weaknesses, it is this love that makes Seghers' novel a uniquely personal testament.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    1937 in Nazi-Germany. Seven detainees manage to escape from the fictitious concentration camp Westhofen (near Worms; the real one was called Osthofen). The camp commander promises to capture them within seven days and nail them to seven made-up crosses in the camp's yard. The main character, Georg Heisler, is one of the fugitives and is intended for the eponymous Seventh Cross. Will he make it, against all odds, and will the seventh cross stay bare? We follow Heisler's path over the course of one 1937 in Nazi-Germany. Seven detainees manage to escape from the fictitious concentration camp Westhofen (near Worms; the real one was called Osthofen). The camp commander promises to capture them within seven days and nail them to seven made-up crosses in the camp's yard. The main character, Georg Heisler, is one of the fugitives and is intended for the eponymous Seventh Cross. Will he make it, against all odds, and will the seventh cross stay bare? We follow Heisler's path over the course of one week. We meet the people who knew him before and how they deal with the situation. There are moral conflicts galore in this novel. Would you, as a common, unblemished, and apolitical citizen, give this wanted man shelter if he is knocking on your door, knowing the real criminals are the ones chasing him. Or would you, without knowing Heisler at all, report him to the police if you see him somewhere? Who can you talk to about these kind of problems? Your family, your friends, your neighbors? Who can you trust anymore? Maybe the hear-nothing/see-nothing/speak-nothing approach will work best? This is a carefully constructed novel and I think the strongest parts are the ones not written down. There's a lot of sub-text to be considered, especially in dialogs, and it was not always easy for me to get the things that are only hinted. Often there's only one or two little sentences that seem to be enough to define a character's mindset. So far so good. The reason I couldn't rate this book higher is the prose, especially in the narrative, which seems kind of stiff to me. There are a whole lot of unnecessary diminutives, and some grammatical constructs made me cringe. One strange thing about this book is the fact that it was published first in the USA (1942, in English) and almost at the same time in Mexico (in German). I suppose, but I'm not sure, that the English version is a translation (the author is German after all, writing in exile). Or maybe Anna Seghers wrote both versions, and translated from German to English herself. In any case this was the first book that let the people from the US know about Nazi-Germany, and apparently also the first one that mentions concentration camps. And for that I'd like to recommend it to readers interested in this part of history. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This novel was published in 1942, during the Second World War. Author, Anna Seghers, was a Jewish Communist who had fled the country and, as such, this is a historically important novel. Rather like novels by Hans Fallada, there is something much more interesting about reading a book written during the time that these events were taking place, which do not have the benefit of hindsight that later novels had. To be honest, this novel is not written as anything written as Fallada, but it is still This novel was published in 1942, during the Second World War. Author, Anna Seghers, was a Jewish Communist who had fled the country and, as such, this is a historically important novel. Rather like novels by Hans Fallada, there is something much more interesting about reading a book written during the time that these events were taking place, which do not have the benefit of hindsight that later novels had. To be honest, this novel is not written as anything written as Fallada, but it is still a very interesting concept, which gives a real sense of how oppressive things were in Germany when this was written (1939). Seven men escape from a concentration camp called Westhofen. The Commandant is determined to recapture them all and make an example of them, but, although six of the men are quickly found, one remains missing. We follow this man as he is on the run, unsure of who he can trust and also of how dangerous it is to help him. From the very first pages, we are aware of the escaped prisoner (George Hesisler) and of his former friend, Franz Marnet, who now works at the Hoeschst Dye Plant. Franz reflects on what he has heard of the escape at the camp and wonders whether George was among those who have escaped. Just in those first pages, Anna Seghers is making a point – that locals were aware of the work camps that existed on their doorsteps, even if they were unaware of what went on inside them. Although I cannot say I was riveted by the plot, I am glad I read this. It shows how those at the time saw the repressive regime grow, of the fear felt by the locals and of how much bravery it took to help someone in need, if you were putting yourself, and your family, in danger by doing so. An interesting fictional account, which is an important document of those times.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Wow, I just got my hands on a first-edition English translation of The Seventh Cross, published in 1942. The inside flap says: "Readers today, in a world at war, and readers in the future, in a world at peace, may come to consider the story of George Heisler's escape from Westhofen prison camp the finest and most deeply understanding book of all that have been written on the greatest subject and theme of these times--the fight against Nazi tyranny." *** George Heisler's escape is more than a decen Wow, I just got my hands on a first-edition English translation of The Seventh Cross, published in 1942. The inside flap says: "Readers today, in a world at war, and readers in the future, in a world at peace, may come to consider the story of George Heisler's escape from Westhofen prison camp the finest and most deeply understanding book of all that have been written on the greatest subject and theme of these times--the fight against Nazi tyranny." *** George Heisler's escape is more than a decent yarn, it's also allegedly one of the earliest--perhaps the first--appearances of a concentration camp in literature. Author Seghers was of Jewish decent, and fled to Mexico in the late 1930's, where she wrote The Seventh Cross in 1939. The English translation enjoyed a wide popularity in 1942, when it made the prestigious "Book of the Month Club." For many Americans, this was their first glimpse into life in Nazi Germany. The book has since sunken into obscurity, I'm guessing because Ms. Seghers was also a card-carrying member of the communist party who returned to Soviet-occupied Berlin after the war, where she went on to write and win awards such as the Stalin Peace Prize (!). Yes, George Heisler in The Seventh Cross is a communist, which in mid-30's Germany was synonymous with "one of the few political parties not afraid to protest Nazi rule." This isn't a book about politics, it's a book about life in a State where anyone can be jailed for listening to the wrong radio station, marrying the "wrong" man, or being born into the "wrong" religion. I'm sure it shocked many Americans at the time. Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of the early-40's era English translation (I would have read the German but English was what I could find). The prose often feels stilted, and I tripped over a number of awkward word-for-word German-to-English passages and idioms. For intance, when a character "drove his wheel into town" he's actually riding his bicycle. But the author's skill still shone through in passages such as: "Frau Marnet would have preferred [the SS man] to spit almost anywhere else than on her clean kitchen floor. At any rate, it was not easy to spread horror in Marnet's kitchen. If the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse had come rushing by on that Sunday, they would have tied their horses to the garden fence and behaved like rational guests. I read this book shortly after reading Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone and found them very similar, although I think I prefer the way Fallada built tension and developed his characters. The Seventh Cross is often confusing in the way it flips about between characters, many of whom are only very loosely related to George's journey, and it took me a good 50+ pages to orient myself. Still, as a sort of historical document that still tells a good story, I think this book should be better known today than it is. P.S. Just thought I'd mention that my 1942 hard-cover has an ad on the inside cover flap reminding me to "Buy U.S. Defense Bonds and Stamps" :D

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tocotin

    This is one of my most favorite books of all time. I’ve just reread my copy which flew to me thousands of kilometers, from my hometown of Lublin to Tokyo where I now live. It’s so old that it doesn’t even have an ISBN, and it’s in Polish, so I can’t say anything about the quality of the English translation – but if you are interested in the rise of Nazism, or totalitarian systems in general, or in history of the 20th century, or simply in good writing, please, please read this book. WW2 (which le This is one of my most favorite books of all time. I’ve just reread my copy which flew to me thousands of kilometers, from my hometown of Lublin to Tokyo where I now live. It’s so old that it doesn’t even have an ISBN, and it’s in Polish, so I can’t say anything about the quality of the English translation – but if you are interested in the rise of Nazism, or totalitarian systems in general, or in history of the 20th century, or simply in good writing, please, please read this book. WW2 (which left my country mutilated beyond recognition) is insanely popular. As a reader, I hate WW2 with a passion for having become a titillating background for feel-good, sentimental, kitschy stories. This book is an exception. It’s not about WW2 in the strict sense, but about the people who were ready to start it, and about the people who had to oppose them. In this book – unlike in the contemporary fiction about WW2 – the latter are in the minority. They are hiding, they are hunted, many of them will be dead soon (the reader is very aware of that). The main character is one of them. He’s not a saint, he isn’t even all that sympathetic, but it’s nigh impossible not to root for him. And the former – the majority – are so very comfortable and content with themselves, and convicted that they were right, that it’s hard not to understand them, and then not to ask oneself difficult questions. And the uncomfortable truth of this book is that most of those who opposed Nazism in the West were NOT regular, “normal” people. They were either religious people or communists. Read it. Read it. It’s amazing for many things, for the flawless pacing, for the complicated, beautiful picture of a country on the brink of catastrophe, for the humanity of characters, and for the clarity of the mirror it holds up for us, to help us recognize the dirt on our faces.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    We all felt how profoundly and terribly outside forces can reach into a human being, to his innermost self. But we also sensed that in that innermost core there was something that was unassailable and inviolable. Originally published in 1942, this is set a few years before the outbreak of WW2 when the concentration camps were prison camps for German 'criminals' as designated by Nazi typology. Seven men escape at the start, and as six of them are recaptured, we witness George Heisler's attempt We all felt how profoundly and terribly outside forces can reach into a human being, to his innermost self. But we also sensed that in that innermost core there was something that was unassailable and inviolable. Originally published in 1942, this is set a few years before the outbreak of WW2 when the concentration camps were prison camps for German 'criminals' as designated by Nazi typology. Seven men escape at the start, and as six of them are recaptured, we witness George Heisler's attempts to keep ahead of his dedicated pursuers. This is undoubtedly an important book in terms of its content and its representation of resistance to Nazi power - but the writing style (or maybe the translation?) makes this flat and laborious reading, lacking vividness, pace and literary flair. I persevered because of my interest in the subject matter: the way George's flight allows a view of ordinary Germans, some ready to hide and help him, others shutting the door in the face of their former friend, out of fear or just the unwillingness to get involved. There are often (not always) pertinent reasons why books drop out of favour: this is worth a read for the way in which it documents its historical moment but it's somewhat lacking for me as a literary novel of style and engagement.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dax

    Eye opening for several reasons. First and foremost is the glimpse into pre-WWII fascist Germany. Germans lived in constant fear of arrest, torture, and the infamous concentration camps. Communists, Jews, and anyone else viewed as a threat to the fascist regime were victimized. Neighbors spied on each other. SS and SA officers walked around like slumlords. A true state of fear permeated throughout the country. Seghers novel is also a pleasure to read. "The Seventh Cross" is about a prison escape, Eye opening for several reasons. First and foremost is the glimpse into pre-WWII fascist Germany. Germans lived in constant fear of arrest, torture, and the infamous concentration camps. Communists, Jews, and anyone else viewed as a threat to the fascist regime were victimized. Neighbors spied on each other. SS and SA officers walked around like slumlords. A true state of fear permeated throughout the country. Seghers novel is also a pleasure to read. "The Seventh Cross" is about a prison escape, and as a result there are several tense moments throughout the seven days covered in the story. Seghers was also not afraid to ignore customary norms while structuring her novel. Point of views often switch mid paragraph, and she likes to throw in first person plural from time to time. Tag on a list of over 30 characters and you have a much denser read than you might expect. Excellent.

  10. 5 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    "Soon there'll be a shout, he thought, then there'll be a shot." This is some pretty gripping shit, another dream-like and feverish novel from Seghers, this time about a prisoner who escapes from a concentration camp and desperately trying not to get caught before he can reach the border. Sounds contrite, but it isn't for a couple of reasons. First, Seghers wrote this after fleeing France (after fleeing Germany) for having committed those two cardinal sins: being a Jew and being a Communist, so th "Soon there'll be a shout, he thought, then there'll be a shot." This is some pretty gripping shit, another dream-like and feverish novel from Seghers, this time about a prisoner who escapes from a concentration camp and desperately trying not to get caught before he can reach the border. Sounds contrite, but it isn't for a couple of reasons. First, Seghers wrote this after fleeing France (after fleeing Germany) for having committed those two cardinal sins: being a Jew and being a Communist, so the concentration camp in question isn't what you usually imagine. This is no Auschwitz breakout, but rather one of the early camps for political prisoners. Seghers was, thus, one of the first writers to darkly foretell what was going on and what was to come. Second, the escapee is in the camp for his political sins, which are only ever vaguely defined. Third, the novel is just as much about people who know the escapee, some who try to help (and some who don't) and those who never even come into contact with him but hear of the escape. There are thus concentric rings and webs of interconnected lives and careers (and suspicions) in a 1930s Germany where paranoia and fealty to the Reich are becoming more and more the defining characteristics of everyday life. For a guy trying to flee through this miasma of distrust, prejudice, and banal viciousness, this cannot but bode badly and Seghers, likely not intending to write a thriller, of all things, will keep you on your toes until the last pages! Seething, black, and stressful!

  11. 5 out of 5

    David

    Phenomenal! I was led to this book by way of Fred Zinnemann's 1944 film of it. For a number of reasons, the film is impressive (i.e., Zinnemann's direction; a performance by Spencer Tracy that's unlike his work elsewhere; Hume Cronyn's Oscar-nommed supporting role). Overall, it does a fine job with the daunting task of streamlining such a massive book - even if it's whittled down to the basics and MGM felt compelled to add that most predictable of elements: a love-interest angle. It's still powe Phenomenal! I was led to this book by way of Fred Zinnemann's 1944 film of it. For a number of reasons, the film is impressive (i.e., Zinnemann's direction; a performance by Spencer Tracy that's unlike his work elsewhere; Hume Cronyn's Oscar-nommed supporting role). Overall, it does a fine job with the daunting task of streamlining such a massive book - even if it's whittled down to the basics and MGM felt compelled to add that most predictable of elements: a love-interest angle. It's still powerful. But, of course - as they say - it ain't the book. Thomas von Steinaecker's afterword details what makes Seghers' achievement a tireless labor of love: essentially, a reflection of the desire to reveal "a cross section of contemporary German society and to provide a certain explanation of how Germany ticked, this nation that had plunged the rest of the world and itself as well into disaster and misery." Ostensibly a suspense thriller (it certainly doesn't lack the tension of one), it shoots out of the gate with a simple brushstroke: seven men escape from a concentration camp. We don't learn much about six of those men or their fates - they are either returned or they die. But we learn everything there is to know about the seventh: George Heisler is presented in all of his flawed humanity. ~ as are many of the novel's many other characters. Seghers' spirit is generous, taking us as she does (through seemingly countless subplots) into the desperate or dark hearts of both the hunted and the hunters. Re: the former, the author lays out the three levels of anxiety: that no one is really to be trusted and everyone is suspect; that your choice in a counter-approach is either sly or defeatist; that, even if your position is relatively 'safe', you're always aware that it's also vulnerable and tenuous. As a result, this is a largely interior work. The souls of a country of pawns are on naked display. Aside from her impeccable construction, Seghers exhibits considerable artistry in her storytelling. She's a clear-sighted and shrewd narrator who also often demonstrates both a sensitivity and warmth that one would think would be hard to draw from at the time (and under the circumstances in which) Seghers was writing. My understanding is that this new (2018) translation by Margot Bettauer Dembo is a vast improvement over an earlier one. I can't read German but I can sense smoothness - and the translator's rhythms are certainly accessible and fluid. What she had to work with was already rich, but it comes through with an urgency that establishes the novel as still relevant and still an essential work.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    Significant in the timing of its release in 1938. All of the pieces for the holocaust are in place. Even better, the writing is top quality and notable in its realistic description of the inner lives of those living under the Third Reich.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gillik

    What a find! And not an easy one. I've had The Seventh Cross on my to-read list for years. When I finally found a copy, it was a 1942 edition buried deep in library storage, with only one cover, wrapped in paper and string to keep it all together. Frankly I didn't realize libraries kept books so badly damaged, but I'm glad mine did. The Seventh Cross would have been worth a read even if it wasn't the best read in of itself - a novel which graphically depicts concentration camps and the totalitaria What a find! And not an easy one. I've had The Seventh Cross on my to-read list for years. When I finally found a copy, it was a 1942 edition buried deep in library storage, with only one cover, wrapped in paper and string to keep it all together. Frankly I didn't realize libraries kept books so badly damaged, but I'm glad mine did. The Seventh Cross would have been worth a read even if it wasn't the best read in of itself - a novel which graphically depicts concentration camps and the totalitarian state, published in 1942? Shows the lie of anyone who post-war said, 'Oh, but we had no idea...' But even better, the book is a great read: George's escape from a camp (at a time when such camps were still mostly used for political prisoners) and his subsequent battle to stay escaped makes for a gripping experience where things change rapidly page by page. George himself is obviously sympathetic, obviously someone you root for, but by no means an angelic or moralistic stand-in. I probably would have forgiven it if he was, considering, but George is plenty flawed - actually, he comes across as kind of an asshole. Before his imprisonment he treated his wife and son terribly, was happy to sleep with friends' lovers, and often cut people off without warning. Yet, with all that, you still feel empathy for this desperate man, injured and exhausted and hunted and terrified, searching for someone he can trust. And you feel for his fellow escapees, and the pain it causes George each time he learns one's been recaptured and returned to the camp for certain torture and death. The events surrounding Wallau are particularly wrenching. Sprinkled around George's escape are a myriad of other characters, some repugnant, some heroic, many in the middle somewhere, all very human. Seghers describes with talent how utterly entangled was the Nazi state with every single thing every single person did. And she describes how living in such a state can warp human interaction. George's ex-girlfriend pretends she doesn't know him; an old political ally has since apparently taken up with the Nazis; George's own brother is now an SS officer who'd be delighted to turn him in himself. But there are also people who help him, some of whom he never meets, some of whom (Franz!) you'd never think would want to help him and yet rise mightily to the occasion. The book never goes in for torture porn, but you see the various wraths of the guards (the one is paranoid, the other is bored without bloodlust, the next is just doing his job) and you see how that violence plays out on the prisoners' heads. George is described as having half a Glasgow smile: "There was a rip or - what shall I call it! - as if someone had tried to make the corner of his mouth reach his left ear." Interesting (to me, anyway, since my WWII reading tends to revolve around the Holocaust in particular) was that the book was very much focused on political criminals, with only passing mention of anti-semitism. It was there, but lurking between the pages, reminding you as the reader - many years and worlds away - of what hadn't happened just quite yet. That poor bastard Dr. Lowenstein, whose only crime was bandaging a gashed hand - he's arrested with several others, and all of those others are eventually released, but not Dr. Lowenstein. And the book is so casual in mentioning off-hand that he hasn't been (and never will be) set free. Haunting. This is a book that deserves more attention than it's got.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    Not a huge amount to say about this one – which, quite fittingly, says a lot. As I felt with other novels of this era, Goodbye to Berlin for example, the historical context – and historical hindsight, most crucially – seem to be what draws readers in. The prospect of hearing voices that embodied humanity against the rise of fascism is something we are appallingly fascinated by because it’s an alternate history. But I am not going to dwell on that: I’m here to address my thoughts on the narrative Not a huge amount to say about this one – which, quite fittingly, says a lot. As I felt with other novels of this era, Goodbye to Berlin for example, the historical context – and historical hindsight, most crucially – seem to be what draws readers in. The prospect of hearing voices that embodied humanity against the rise of fascism is something we are appallingly fascinated by because it’s an alternate history. But I am not going to dwell on that: I’m here to address my thoughts on the narrative construction itself. I wanted to love this. I really, really did. The claims to suspense and tension completely floor me. I found The Seventh Cross meandering and rather disjointed, something entirely at odds with the premise: it’s an escape novel. And yet, it gets off to a shaky start and never truly finds its feet. It never engaged me and I was certainly not emotionally compelled despite the harrowing events it depicts; enough so that I threw in the towel about halfway. Life’s too short. Perhaps the translation is more to blame than Seghers’s prose. I’ll keep thinking that.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bagus

    Das siebte Kreuz was written by Anna Seghers in exile. Seghers, herself was Jewish and a Communist was forced into exile fleeing Nazi Germany, first to Switzerland, then France until the Nazis occupied the country, and finally to Mexico where she lived until 1947. She is known best for her articulate ways to depict the moral experience of the German people during the Second World War. On both sides of the Iron Curtain in post-war Germany, Anna Seghers and her works were recognised in their impor Das siebte Kreuz was written by Anna Seghers in exile. Seghers, herself was Jewish and a Communist was forced into exile fleeing Nazi Germany, first to Switzerland, then France until the Nazis occupied the country, and finally to Mexico where she lived until 1947. She is known best for her articulate ways to depict the moral experience of the German people during the Second World War. On both sides of the Iron Curtain in post-war Germany, Anna Seghers and her works were recognised in their importance as moral lessons with regards to the dark times of the Third Reich. Günter Grass and Christa Wolf who became prominent authors in West and East Germany after the war recognised Anna Seghers as an important influence, although wider recognition in West Germany came in a due time since the uncomfortable fact of Seghers’ position as a Communist and her prominent position as the president of the German Writers Union in the German Democratic Republic from 1952 to 1978. The plot and motives of Das siebte Kreuz look simple at first. It’s about a prisoner escape from fictitious Westhofen Concentration Camp in 1936, which takes plenty of references from the real Osthofen Concentration Camp near the Rhine. It’s not hard to see the fondness that Anna Seghers had towards the Rhineland, as she was born as the only child of a Jewish family in Mainz in 1900. Much of the story takes place in that designated area, and it might also be from her fond memories that she was able to provide a realistic description of the settings around the Rhineland despite the fact that the story was written in exile. The story opens with the escape of seven prisoners from the camp and is symbolically divided into seven chapters, with each chapter chronicling each day that passes after the escape. It’s easy to get lost with many characters that are included in the story. Upon my first few days of reading Das siebte Kreuz, sometimes I could not tell which character is related to whom and what are their background stories, despite the fact that they are mentioned frequently. It’s helpful that this edition by Virago contains the list of characters and their occupations/roles in the story. I’ve been wondering if the numerous amount of character is something intentional in Anna Seghers’ part since one of the intentions of this story is to portray the daily life in the Third Reich. By bringing many characters into the background, she could recreate the emotional substances and the multitudes of life in a totalitarian state, something evident from the usual salute of “Heil Hitler!” performed by each character that might seem bizarre to modern readers and the way everyone reports on everyone to the Gestapo, to note some examples. Even with the numerous characters introduced in the story, Anna Seghers could still point out the fact that the story will focus particularly on Georg Heisler, a character who for many reasons managed to loom free when the other six escapees have been caught or dead already by the seventh day after the escape. Heisler’s story seems unreasonable at first, with the layered systems in the Third Reich to ensure there is no escape route for the escapees to get out of the country. With secret police, the Gestapo, who claims to know everything about everyone, their interrogation system that instigated fear even in people who claimed to be morally incorruptible, there’s little chance of success for Georg Heisler. His initial destination was to his home city in Mainz, to meet with his former girlfriend Leni who claimed that she will wait for Heisler, only to be faced with the difficult fact that she was already married to someone else and refused to help him. His options were running out, that he was forced to rely on Paul Röder, a friend whom he hasn’t seen for years, and then slowly there are more people who aid Heisler in his escape plan even under the threat of the Gestapo, that the Kress couples remark in the end after helping Heisler: ‘Did he say anything at the end?’ ‘No, only, “Thanks.”’ ‘Strange,’ his wife said, ‘I feel as if I should be thanking him – no matter what might happen to us as a result of this affair – for having stayed with us, for having come to see us.’ ‘Yes, I feel the same way,’ her husband said. They looked at each other in surprise, with a new mutual understanding that neither of them had known before. The people lived in constant fear of the Gestapo. Everyone could be an informant for everyone else. Georg Heisler is described as having no longer anyone to rely on in this story. His beloved brother trained as an SS officer and aided the Gestapo search for Heisler. His ex-wife, Elli, is described as already taking a new lover and wanting to have nothing to do with Heisler. Most of his friends turned against him in fears of the terror. Yet it was this kind of hopeless situation that proves powerful for Anna Seghers to assert the message that it was possible to rise against the Third Reich from within. In the last chapter, Anna Seghers writes: For the first time since the escape, Fahrenberg realised that he wasn’t pursuing one single man whose features he knew, whose strength was exhaustible, but rather a faceless, inexhaustible, inestimable power. A state which relies on terrors to control its citizens such as the Third Reich needed some symbols to remain powerful. With the capture of prisoners and frequent propaganda, they could control the view that they are all-knowing and could do anything within their domains, and that was probably what went in the mindsets of most German people who stayed behind in the Third Reich. On the dedication page, there is a short message which says: ‘This book is dedicated to Germany’s antifascists, living and dead.’ Written in 1938, shortly before the start of the Second World War, this story brings a powerful message about the danger of the Third Reich and celebrates the memories and struggles of those who stayed within Hitler’s Reich in the form of a single man who is lucky with his fate that is Georg Heisler. The real-life inspiration for Georg Heisler, Max Tschorniki managed to escape from the real Osthofen Concentration Camp and met with Anna Seghers in their exiles in Paris. Apart from The Tin Drum by Günter Grass, I consider Das siebte Kreuz as one of the most important pieces of literature chronicling the dark times of the Third Reich and the viewpoint of the other Germany as a counterpoint to give the voice of the underground movement both from within and in exile which opposed Hitler. This new full translation is made available in 2018 by Margot Bettauer Dembo, who happened to pass away shortly after finishing this translation, after a long time only the abridged version was available to English-speaking readers.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    The Seventh Cross will keep you on the edge of your seat. Simply written but with deep themes. Most surprising it was written DURING WWII.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marcus Hobson

    This is a new translation of a book originally written in the 1930s and published in the 1940s. It paints a remarkable picture of pre-war Germany. The concentration camps are there, but full of those who opposed Hitler and the Nazi Party. There is a brilliant level of tension as a group of seven men escape and one remains on the run. It opens your eyes to the level of distrust everyone has for their neighbour, and has that subtle nod towards modern times with its fake news. We follow George Heisl This is a new translation of a book originally written in the 1930s and published in the 1940s. It paints a remarkable picture of pre-war Germany. The concentration camps are there, but full of those who opposed Hitler and the Nazi Party. There is a brilliant level of tension as a group of seven men escape and one remains on the run. It opens your eyes to the level of distrust everyone has for their neighbour, and has that subtle nod towards modern times with its fake news. We follow George Heisler as he tries to outrun the manhunt. He is isolated, surviving only on his wits, while all around the Brownshirts and the SS are rounding up anyone whom he knew before he landed in prison. We follow his friends and relations, and we witness the perils he feels about depending on anyone. As George heads back towards places he lived and worked before his imprisonment, people he knew there are faced with a dilemma. Do they help their old friend and run the risk of being arrested themselves, or do they keep quiet and tow the line? Those who still resist look around for anyone who can help, in a world now populated by poker faces. The level is distrust is superbly captured by the novel. There is a small scene which encapsulates the pervading suspicion of the time. George is a hunted man, there is a price on his head. A former workmate, out drinking with a man he is no longer sure he can trust, thinks the man at the bar was George. The drinking companion says he could make a lot of money handing George over. “They used to be friends, these two; then came the years during which they no longer talked about anything meaningful with each other for fear of giving themselves away, in case the other had changed. Now it turned out that they were both still the same; neither had changed. They left the automat, friends again.”

  18. 4 out of 5

    Markus

    God this book is tense. I really loved the many perspectives it uses and the insight into attitudes towards the third reich and those who resist it. This book never falls into the trap of being mercifull and revisionist about people, instead it is realistic. The end leaves the reader with the tiniest glint of hope and I am just in awe.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rob Twinem

    Without doubt one of the main issues that often causes concerns when talking about the 2WW is just how much information the everyday German populace received or knew about what the Nazi party were involved in on a day to day basis. Here of course we are referring to genocide and the manipulation and control of not only the German people but those in neighbouring countries which soon fell under the control of jack booted terrorists and in particular the annihilation of groups who did not conform Without doubt one of the main issues that often causes concerns when talking about the 2WW is just how much information the everyday German populace received or knew about what the Nazi party were involved in on a day to day basis. Here of course we are referring to genocide and the manipulation and control of not only the German people but those in neighbouring countries which soon fell under the control of jack booted terrorists and in particular the annihilation of groups who did not conform to the Nazi Aryan ideology. So digging deep within the storyline of The Seventh Cross we are almost exclusively given a glimpse into the thinking of the everyday German at that time and in particular their knowledge or lack of just what was happening on a daily basis. Did they know of the existence of concentration camps in the years immediately before war broke out? And if they did know were they supportive? Did they condone what was going on? Were they prepared to help individuals who were incarcerated and brutally beaten for merely condoning a particular belief? Anna Seghers book is of particular significance as it a product of its time. It paints a picture of a country in change/turmoil but most importantly it is written from someone who actually lived through the rise of Nazism, the emergence of an elitist SS, the indoctrination of the very young into the Hitler Youth, the brown uniforms and fascist beliefs held by the SA whose official role was to protect party meetings, march in Nazi rallies and physically assault and intimidate political opponents. 7 men imprisoned in the fictitious Westhofen camp have escaped. George Heisler, a communist, is the main character and the story follows him negotiating the outlying countryside and taking shelter with those who were prepared to risk the wrath and torture of the Gestapo. As the story unfolds six of the escapees are gradually captured. The title of The Seventh Cross refers to the work of the camp commandant "Fahrenberg" where he has ordered the creation of seven crosses from nearby trees to be used when prisoners are returned not as a means of crucifixion but a subtler torture: the escapees are made to stand all day in front of their crosses, and will be punished if they falter. As in historical document this is an important work primarily because it portrays the mindset of the German people; would they adhere to the barbarous actions of a ruthless government in waiting or were they prepared to stretch out the hand of friendship and help the escapees. I must confess that as a story I did not find the book as well written as I had hoped (that honour must certainly go to the wonderful Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. and the dangerous actions that Otto Quangel takes when he discovers that his son has been killed on the Russian front) yet it is still an excellent account of its time, written by a lady who herself was a committed communist. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley and the publisher Little Brown Book Group UK, Virago for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle Jarrett

    Yet one more NYRB classic totally worthy of its class. The Seventh Cross was first published in 1942, obviously mid WWII. reveals the terror in the concentration camps built for political prisoners, very soon to be exponentially used for Jews, gays, the handicapped, and whomever else was deemed unfit for Nazi Germany. The Seventh Cross portrays not only the horrors of the camp, but the inner and outer life of George, one of seven escapees. Seven trees are topped with a cross bar nailed into them Yet one more NYRB classic totally worthy of its class. The Seventh Cross was first published in 1942, obviously mid WWII. reveals the terror in the concentration camps built for political prisoners, very soon to be exponentially used for Jews, gays, the handicapped, and whomever else was deemed unfit for Nazi Germany. The Seventh Cross portrays not only the horrors of the camp, but the inner and outer life of George, one of seven escapees. Seven trees are topped with a cross bar nailed into them, with nails in the trees for the returned prisoners to be shown to the others in the camp. The seventh one is for George, who lasted longest in freedom, even though it was hardly freedom. Already broken and battered physically, mentally, and emotionally, George's desperate endeavors to stay alive are exhausting to the reader as well. Whom to trust? Very few. Are they really Gestapo? Crippling scenes created in George's head, some of the past, some current, some of how it will be when he is caught, put the reader in his head , an extremely fearful place to occupy. There is no safety. Yet another expose' of tyranny and abuse of power that seeks to extinguish life. Will we ever get it?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    It’s a miracle that The Seventh Cross, by Anna Seghers, exists. It was written by a Communist Jewish German woman who fled to Mexico with her children after the Nazis came to power. It was published in 1942 after Seghers sent a manuscript to her American publisher. (The other three manuscripts she sent were lost.) The novel tells the story of George Heisler, a Communist who escapes from a concentration camp in southwestern Germany, along with six other prisoners. Back at the concentration camp, It’s a miracle that The Seventh Cross, by Anna Seghers, exists. It was written by a Communist Jewish German woman who fled to Mexico with her children after the Nazis came to power. It was published in 1942 after Seghers sent a manuscript to her American publisher. (The other three manuscripts she sent were lost.) The novel tells the story of George Heisler, a Communist who escapes from a concentration camp in southwestern Germany, along with six other prisoners. Back at the concentration camp, there are seven crosses waiting for them when they are captured... Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rob Twinem

    Without doubt one of the main issues that often causes concerns when talking about the 2WW is just how much information the everyday German populace received or knew about what the Nazi party were involved in on a day to day basis. Here of course we are referring to genocide and the manipulation and control of not only the German people but those in neighbouring countries which soon fell under the control of jack booted terrorists and in particular the annihilation of groups who did not conform Without doubt one of the main issues that often causes concerns when talking about the 2WW is just how much information the everyday German populace received or knew about what the Nazi party were involved in on a day to day basis. Here of course we are referring to genocide and the manipulation and control of not only the German people but those in neighbouring countries which soon fell under the control of jack booted terrorists and in particular the annihilation of groups who did not conform to the Nazi Aryan ideology. So digging deep within the storyline of The Seventh Cross we are almost exclusively given a glimpse into the thinking of the everyday German at that time and in particular their knowledge or lack of just what was happening on a daily basis. Did they know of the existence of concentration camps in the years immediately before war broke out? And if they did know were they supportive? Did they condone what was going on? Were they prepared to help individuals who were incarcerated and brutally beaten for merely condoning a particular belief? Anna Seghers book is of particular significance as it a product of its time. It paints a picture of a country in change/turmoil but most importantly it is written from someone who actually lived through the rise of Nazism, the emergence of an elitist SS, the indoctrination of the very young into the Hitler Youth, the brown uniforms and fascist beliefs held by the SA whose official role was to protect party meetings, march in Nazi rallies and physically assault and intimidate political opponents. 7 men imprisoned in the fictitious Westhofen camp have escaped. George Heisler, a communist, is the main character and the story follows him negotiating the outlying countryside and taking shelter with those who were prepared to risk the wrath and torture of the Gestapo. As the story unfolds six of the escapees are gradually captured. The title of The Seventh Cross refers to the work of the camp commandant "Fahrenberg" where he has ordered the creation of seven crosses from nearby trees to be used when prisoners are returned not as a means of crucifixion but a subtler torture: the escapees are made to stand all day in front of their crosses, and will be punished if they falter. As in historical document this is an important work primarily because it portrays the mindset of the German people; would they adhere to the barbarous actions of a ruthless government in waiting or were they prepared to stretch out the hand of friendship and help the escapees. I must confess that as a story I did not find the book as well written as I had hoped (that honour must certainly go to the wonderful Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. and the dangerous actions that Otto Quangel takes when he discovers that his son has been killed on the Russian front) yet it is still an excellent account of its time, written by a lady who herself was a committed communist. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley and the publisher Little Brown Book Group UK, Virago for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Linden

    4.5 stars. Powerful novel about the escape of seven political prisoners from a concentration camp in pre-WWII Germany. There are multiple characters to follow, but there is a list of them included which is very helpful. The paranoia felt by German citizens under Nazi rule is well portrayed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Classic reverie

    After watching Spencer Tracy in " The Seventh Cross", and seeing that this film was based on a novel, I wanted to read and compare, especially since the movie was fresh in my mind, in my spoiler section below, I will compare. The Afterword was written by a German author, Thomas von Steinaecker who did a good job giving more of an insight into Anna Seghers' life and her novel. I found it interesting that he also had seen the movie and having re-read the book later in life, he was required to read After watching Spencer Tracy in " The Seventh Cross", and seeing that this film was based on a novel, I wanted to read and compare, especially since the movie was fresh in my mind, in my spoiler section below, I will compare. The Afterword was written by a German author, Thomas von Steinaecker who did a good job giving more of an insight into Anna Seghers' life and her novel. I found it interesting that he also had seen the movie and having re-read the book later in life, he was required to read it, when he was in school in the 1990's, and not really impressed, also stating that the language was "antiquated". "There was a feeling of general relief among the students when we were finally able to put the book aside." After a re-read, he then saw how it had became an international bestseller in 1942. I did not read this as a youth but as a 55 year old who did not find the language "antiquated" but I suppose if one is used to reading modern books which many have simplified writing. I totally agree with his current enthusiasm for this wonderfully engrossing book which is indeed a new favorite of mine. The Nazi theme in new books is prevalent as Steinaecker noted, and what makes this book more fascinating is the danger was real and it is not a book about the times but is of the times, which brings a real look into Hiltler's Germany. Having German ancestry, I wonder what my distant relatives did during these times, it is a scary thought. The excerpts below are from The Afterword. "It showed Spencer Tracy and was from a Hollywood film called The Seventh Cross. I was amazed: That unreadable old tome (that’s how I had categorized and filed away the novel in my memory) had been made into a movie! And on top of that with a star actor? I took a quick look at the article about Seghers and her novel and became absorbed. At first glance, the material I was reading sounded fascinating as well as unbelievable: Anna Seghers’s The Seventh Cross had become an international bestseller soon after it was first published in 1942—simultaneously in German by a publisher in exile in Mexico and in an English translation in the USA." "The Seventh Cross for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In addition to Spencer Tracy, the cast included Jessica Tandy and Helene Weigel (in her only film role during her American exile); Hume Cronyn, who played Paul, was even nominated for an Oscar." "It was between May of 1938 and late in the summer of 1939, with world war imminent and under the most precarious circumstances possible, living all the time in fear for herself and her family, that Anna Seghers wrote “a little novel,” as she called it at first, or as an early working title reads, the “7 Crosses Novel.” "It should be noted here that the motif of the seven crosses is not Seghers’s invention, but rather a particularly perfidious punishment that was actually meted out in 1936 at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp after an escape (fatally unsuccessful), an incident the author had no doubt heard of." The film does a wonderful job sticking to the story and I enjoyed it, but the novel is so much more, Germany's atmosphere in the mid 1930's gives one a better understanding of how a people could turn their heads to the deaths and happenings in the concentration camps. I would hope that I would be a "Paul Roeder" or a "Fiedler", all those seeking justice instead of pretending that it does not concern them, if they do as they are told, they would be okay. Living in 2020, I see more then ever how people can be lead without thinking what they are losing in their "Freedoms"and their morality. Power hungry goverments, USA governors looking to control our lives in the call for safety from a virus, you may differ in your opinion, yes the virus kills but what of the future and how leaders look to control and under what pretense next. Once you let someone think for you, it brings you one step closer to slavery. Living in the USA, I see the "brown shirts" bullying , threating, beating those who disagree with them and scaring of the public, fearing for their lives and afraid to speak their minds. Media outlets deciding on what they report, not on facts but feelings brings society one step closer. The ones who generally cry "Hilter" and "Fascist" are indeed fascist themselves and crying racist, to anyone who dare thinks differently. Blacklisting and ruining ones life because they think differently. I know I feel the fear but know that I must stand for my beliefs. In "The Seventh Cross", you can feel the fear dripping from the German people, if they think differently or even if they don't, knowing someone could be spying and bring doom to you and your family. The indoctrination of children and the irrelevance of religion in lives was and is present in today's society. Who would think the freedom of religion, to gather would be denied. "The Seventh Cross" tells of 7 concentration camp escapees and the German people's reaction. The story has so many layers that show how little actions of one person and many others can have an effect. ❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌ Spoiler Alert❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌❌ The movie has Wallau dying early on and looking down from Heaven, telling about George's escape. Wallau does not get caught too quick and is turned in by a close friend who actually was imprisoned for sometime. He hangs himself after being guilt ridden. Fuellgrabe in both book and movie tries to get George to accompany him to Gestapo headquarters. In the book, Fuellgrabe thinks he will have mercy but a cruel death awaits. Aldinger's hometown and how he is accused falsely by a neighbor who fears his return after the escape. Aldinger dies soon after he returns. In the movie his life is not detailed. George is married in the book but he had left his wife and baby soon after, because he was a womanizer. His political views had him arrested but his silence in not giving out information about others despite what tortures, he incurred, brought out his admirable qualities. A man can be a cad but shines, nonetheless. Hoping he escapes, even though he has treated his wife poorly. George's family is spilt between their feelings of helping, afraid to speak about it. His family is not mentioned in detail in the movie. The friends in the movie are less defined to their relationship with George but Paul Roeder is almost the same in both book and film. Fielder plays a more prominent role as many others. The affluent friend Sauer, in the movie decides to help after his wife's feeling of shame, when he did not help. Sauer in the book, soon after regrets and tries to help. There is a whole plot about George's wife and friend brings more understanding. In the movie, George stays at an inn and falls in love with a waitress, hoping to send for her after. In the book a waitress has his attention but he knows he can not offer her anything but wishes he could. The concentration camps happenings after the escape are a part of the book, the movie does not have much to show except some brutal interrogations.

  25. 5 out of 5

    abcdefg

    I can't imagine what it must have been like living in fascist Germany at this time. The deep-seated paranoia portrayed in this book paints a frightening picture of one man's escape from a Nazi concentration camp and his determination to flee the oppressive force that pursues him. Anna Seghers is a most courageous writer. To have written this novel as a German Jew and communist at this time in history is beyond what most would be willing to put their lives at risk for. There's great nationalistic I can't imagine what it must have been like living in fascist Germany at this time. The deep-seated paranoia portrayed in this book paints a frightening picture of one man's escape from a Nazi concentration camp and his determination to flee the oppressive force that pursues him. Anna Seghers is a most courageous writer. To have written this novel as a German Jew and communist at this time in history is beyond what most would be willing to put their lives at risk for. There's great nationalistic pride in the civilians who do their part to aid George Heisler, knowing that in doing so, their very own lives and the lives of their families could be in endangered. Seghers captures very well the fascist climate as well as the German rural countryside, and does a very impressive job at tracking each association of George Heisler's so that you don't get lost by the time the story comes to its conclusion. But really, this is a humanistic story if anything. The reader is able to peer into the lives, hopes, dreams, and fears of multiple characters, and see how their role in George's life has more than one implication. It really points to the question of whether anyone can ethically exchange one life for another, or one for many. In the world of "The Seventh Cross" the answer is no.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Anna Seghers, a German leftist with A Jewish background, wrote The Seventh Cross in exile from Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. Her story is a powerful, contemporary treatment of life in Fascist Germany, where people's neighbors could be arrested and shipped off to concentration camps. The book gives a fictional account of several escapees from such a camp, but focuses on the plight of George Heisler, who must struggle to escape the clutches of the Gestapo and seek help from other Germans who rea Anna Seghers, a German leftist with A Jewish background, wrote The Seventh Cross in exile from Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. Her story is a powerful, contemporary treatment of life in Fascist Germany, where people's neighbors could be arrested and shipped off to concentration camps. The book gives a fictional account of several escapees from such a camp, but focuses on the plight of George Heisler, who must struggle to escape the clutches of the Gestapo and seek help from other Germans who realize that by giving him aid, they are endangering their own lives. Seghers described her nascent book as "a story that provides the opportunity to learn about very many levels in fascist Germany through the fate of a single man" (p. 408). The book reportedly became a critical success in America before eventually finding an audience in post-war East Germany. It offers a compelling portrayal of what life is like for ordinary citizens under a fascist regime. It may be nearly as important today as it was in the 1930s and 40s.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    "Only in times when nothing at all is possible anymore does life pass by like a shadow. But those times when everything becomes possible again contain all of life as well as death and destruction." Anna Seghers deftly created two stories in one. This is a story of seven people escaping from a Nazi concentration camp, hunted people seeking some safe place, just trying to get a little more distance between their already broken bodies & a place of certain suffering. This is also the story of how t "Only in times when nothing at all is possible anymore does life pass by like a shadow. But those times when everything becomes possible again contain all of life as well as death and destruction." Anna Seghers deftly created two stories in one. This is a story of seven people escaping from a Nazi concentration camp, hunted people seeking some safe place, just trying to get a little more distance between their already broken bodies & a place of certain suffering. This is also the story of how typical citizens go about their lives living under a despot, the chances they are willing to take. This suspenseful tale primarily follows communist George Heisler's escape, though we also learn the thoughts & fates of the other six. Seghers allows us, through a wide array of characters, to see the varying attitudes of the time: fear, denial, acceptance, defiance, hatred, solidarity. Seghers wrote this while Hitler was still in power. She had to flee both Germany & France to escape the long, sharp claws of the Nazi regime. A Jewish Communist, Seghers knew what it was to live in fear, to see how quickly & steadily an entire nation can succumb to a regime. Life goes on as normal for most. While people are rounded up, sent to camps, tortured & killed, others are making dumplings, harvesting apples, drinking at taverns, falling in love. "After a hard day's work everyone and everything was sleeping. It was peaceful, except for the screams coming from the Westhofen concentration camp." No one is really safe though. Some flimsy past connection could make you a target for surveillance, questioning, threats. For someone like George, or even anyone under suspicion, everyone you have ever known can be "turned into a network of living traps." This book is entertaining, thrilling (no wonder it was made into a film), but there also are so many layers here, deeper meanings in a character's gesture, an innermost thought. I was totally enthralled by this story, but also had to stop from time-to-time to ask myself, Would I have helped George? What risks would I take? "We all felt how profoundly and how terribly outside forces can reach into a human being, to his innermost self. But we also sensed that in that innermost core there was something that was unassailable and inviolable."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mimi

    a traditional but excellent novel showing some humanity in a time of rising fascism

  29. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    My love of Seghers continues. Another book about trying to escape the Nazis here, this time in Germany, whereas in her book, Transit, the setting is France. Transit is a pure masterpiece. I enjoyed this almost as much.

  30. 5 out of 5

    J.

    The pavement was vibrating. You could hear jubilant shouts from the end of the street. For the last few weeks the sixty sixth infantry regiment had been quartered in their new barracks, and whenever they marched through a section of the city, they were given a fresh reception. And finally here they came: trumpeters and drummers, a drum major tossing up his stick, a little horse prancing. There they were! Finally. The people raised their arms to salute. The old man twitched in time to the march . The pavement was vibrating. You could hear jubilant shouts from the end of the street. For the last few weeks the sixty sixth infantry regiment had been quartered in their new barracks, and whenever they marched through a section of the city, they were given a fresh reception. And finally here they came: trumpeters and drummers, a drum major tossing up his stick, a little horse prancing. There they were! Finally. The people raised their arms to salute. The old man twitched in time to the march . His eyebrows twitched in time to the march. His eyes glittered. Was his son among the marchers? This was a march that roiled up the people, made their spines tingle and their eyes glow. What magic was this, composed in equal parts of ancient memory and total forgetting? From the way they acted you might think that the last war these people had fought was the happiest of undertakings and had brought them only joy and prosperity. The women and girls smiled, as if their sons and sweethearts were invulnerable. Seghers' book is a fictitious document that lets her thread an adventure tale through what she's really after: an examination of Germany under the Third Reich. An escape from a concentration camp-- seven prisoners, so an affront to the hierarchy-- introduces both manhunt and escape narratives, running side by side. A well-integrated, coherent translation brings it to life. Critical to the validity of the text is the biographical background of the author herself, a German Jew who fled Germany to write this in Paris just prior to the occupation of France. Conditions in Germany would not have been an exercise in imagination for Anna Seghers. The work of Hans Fallada https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... comes readily to mind. Common to other books written in conditions of occupation (or imminent occupation)-- is the sense of an endless string of unbelievable things happening, leading to a murky, underwatery sensibility. In The Seventh Cross we are led along the paths of endless escape and constant pursuit, a wandering dream state that is relentless, eventually almost senseless... Yet he had never thought more clearly. He was just now regaining all his wits. Not merely since his escape through the window, but since the very beginning of his escape. How terribly bare everything was now, how cold, and how clearly predictable the impossibility of it all. Up to now he had been walking along its edge, propelled by an urge he no longer understood, Like a sleepwalker. Now at last, he was full awake and could see where he was. He felt dizzy and clung to tree branches. Up to now he had come through safely, guided by powers granted only to sleepwalkers that vanish on awakening. He might perhaps even have ultimately succeeded with his escape if he had continued that way. But unfortunately he was now wide awake …. Everything in a hardline fascist state seems to induce such strain that people wander in a fugue state, so worried and stressed that they've fallen under a spell, or into a trance. It's hard to think in the middle of this novel that no time has elapsed; Seghers has integrated a great deal of exposition on the fly, and kept the clock ticking. At the close of the book less than a full week has gone by, but the effect is that of several lifetimes. Riveting, recommended. _______________________ tiny quibbles department: in a cast of many characters, was it really necessary to have so many that were nearly the same name..? Elsa, Leni, Elli … Heinrich, Heidrich, Hermann … Fritz, Franz ...

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