‘The Passenger’ by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz – To be a Jewish Man in Germany on and after Kristallnacht


‘The Passenger’ by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz (1938) – 266 pages           Translated from the German by Philip Boehm


The night of November 9-10, 1938 – Kristallnacht in Germany, the Night of Broken Glass.

I haven’t committed any crime, and not once in my life have I had anything to do with politics. Nevertheless they came to arrest me and they smashed up my apartment. Not entirely, but to a great extent. They’re arresting Jews, as you know.”

The Germans are consumed with Nazi hatred for the Jewish people, and each Jewish person faces annihilation. ‘The Passenger’ vividly captures the sense of impending doom which all the Jewish people there must have felt.

For a Jew the entire Reich is one big concentration camp.”

Otto Silbermann is on the run. He should have gotten out of Germany years or months ago. He moves from train to train to escape Germany and avoid the authorities. He does have the ultimately slight advantage of not looking Jewish. However his passport is marked with a big red “J”. His wife is non-Jewish, but Otto still fears what the Nazis will do to her. He fought for the Germans in World War I but the new breed of Nazis are a people driven by hate.

Don’t walk too fast or too slow. Because if you stick out precisely when you’re trying so hard not to, if you look suspicious because you’re trying so hard not to, if you look suspicious because you’re trying to look as unsuspicious as you can…My God, what do these people want from me?”

Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

Otto’s non-Jewish business partner uses Otto’s impending arrest as a bargaining chip to cheat him out of large amounts of money. The guy who buys his apartment does the same.

‘The Passenger’ is a rapid read, a thrilling page turner that is filled with suspense.

The discovery and publishing of this novel written by 23 year old Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz in four weeks after Kristallnacht is quite a story also which you can read about here.


Grade:   A



7 responses to this post.

  1. Everything I hear about this book is good, I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Lisa,
      Yes, this is a novel that somehow was recovered over 80 years later, and it is as thrilling as anything written today.



      • Have you come across No Place to Lay My No Place to Lay One’s Head, by Françoise Frenkel? It’s the same theme, but it’s a real life memoir.

        Liked by 1 person


        • Hi Lisa,
          I had not heard of ‘No Place to Rest my Head’ by Francoise Frenkel until you mentioned it. I researched this book now. It is a real-life account of her escape from Nazi Germany eight months after Kristallnacht, then her escape from France to Switzerland. She was one of the few fortunate ones. The book was first published in 1945, then republished in 2015 It looks to be an interesting read.



          • It is, but harrowing too. I read it a few years ago and I still remember that awful feeling of entrapment and having to be constantly on the move, and unable to trust anyone either.



  2. Fascinating. I haven’t read a thing about this before. It sounds thrilling and terrifying.

    Liked by 1 person


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