Eaves­drop­ping in Oberammergau

Hilary Salk

  • From the Publisher
May 3, 2016

A Jew­ish-Amer­i­can child liv­ing in Ger­many three years after the Holo­caust seems improb­a­ble, but so it was for Ali­son, an invet­er­ate eaves­drop­per and daugh­ter of a Unit­ed States offi­cer sta­tioned in Ober­am­mer­gau. She nar­rates her dis­cov­er­ies of the vil­lage’s con­tri­bu­tion to Nazi hatred of the Jew­ish peo­ple despite Ober­am­mer­gau’s fame for its holy Pas­sion Play, per­formed every ten years since 1634. Ali­son over­hears the sto­ries told to her moth­er and her vis­it­ing grand­fa­ther by the Ger­man piano teacher, who they learn is a Jew, though a con­vert to Catholi­cism. Based on a true sto­ry, this fic­tion­al­ized char­ac­ter, renamed Ste­fan Hirsch, came to Ober­am­megau in 1934, where he lived until attacked on Kristall­nacht by a group of Nazi youth, one of whom alleged­ly becomes the Jesus of the 1950 pageant. Hirsch was impris­oned in Dachau, even­tu­al­ly released, and lived out the war in Eng­land, when he then returned to Ober­am­mer­gau. The mys­tery of why he returns dri­ves the plot of this com­pelling novel.

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