Alex in Deutschland

September 1, 2021

Alex Schwarz is a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Holo­caust sur­vivor haunt­ed by the night­mare that was Nazi Ger­many. In 1939, Alex Schwarz’s father escaped the Third Reich and came to the Unit­ed States. But Alex’s grand­par­ents and uncle per­ished in Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps. Now, in the 1960s, Alex wants to under­stand and escape from the dark shad­ow his father’s grief and fears have cast over his youth.

Then hap­pen­stance gives Alex a gift — or is it a bur­den? Alex learns he can see into the past. How will Alex and his girl­friend Lucy, a Sovi­et émi­gré, make use of this new and extra­or­di­nary capability?

Alex in Deutsch­land tells its tale using adven­ture, cru­el­ty, won­der and sad­ness from the nine­teen-thir­ties, for­ties, fifties and six­ties. Under­ly­ing it all, the book wres­tles with the psy­che of Hitler while address­ing the ques­tion: What is fascism?

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Roger Neumaier

1. Alex in Deutsch­land is a sto­ry about a son’s reac­tion to the grief his father expe­ri­enced after escap­ing from Nazi Ger­many. Do you or did you know a holo­caust sur­vivor who suf­fers or has suf­fered from survivor’s guilt? How is this per­son sim­i­lar or dif­fer­ent from Alex’s father?

2. While this is a fic­tion book, the bio­graph­i­cal details about Adolf Hitler are fact based. What do you believe was the pri­ma­ry issue that caused Adolf Hitler to try to destroy the Jew­ish peo­ple as well as oth­er minor­i­ty populations?

3. Should the Ger­man peo­ple be blamed for not resist­ing Hitler? 

4. What are your feel­ings about the neigh­bors who lived in the Schwarz family’s apart­ment building?

5. Would you have resist­ed Hitler if you were a non-Jew Ger­man cit­i­zen liv­ing in Ger­many dur­ing the the1930s?

6. Was there any rea­son oth­er than his own lack of suc­cess as an artist that Hitler clamped down on mod­ern art?

7. Alex’s quest is about try­ing to under­stand the Ger­man peo­ple as much as gain­ing insight into Adolf Hitler. Why do you think the Ger­man peo­ple allowed Hitler to per­se­cute so many people?

8. Are there cur­rent pop­ulist lead­ers or politi­cians who have some char­ac­ter­is­tics sim­i­lar to Hitler. If so, who and what makes them dif­fer­ent from or sim­i­lar to Hitler?

9. Do you think the com­par­i­son of Alex to Alice in Won­der­land is valid?

10. Before read­ing the book, were you aware that more than 25 mil­lion Sovi­et cit­i­zens died in World War II? What are your thoughts about those loss­es of life?

Are there sim­i­lar­i­ties between the treaty of Ver­sailles and the ways in which the Sovi­et Union was bro­ken up at the end of the 20th century?