First published in 1938 in Story magazine as a wake-up call warning Americans of the true nature of the Nazi menace, this punchy epistolary tale enacts a stunning drama of friendship, betrayal and vengeance.
In 1932, San Francisco art-gallery owner Max Eisenstein, a Jew who grew up in pre-Nazi Germany, bids farewell to his longtime friend and business partner Martin Schulse, who returns with his family to Munich, where he becomes a Nazi. Through their letters to one another, which quickly move from warmth to a chilling disregard, we watch as the once-liberal Martin, seduced by grandiose visions of German destiny and by the rantings of "our Glorious Leader," vents an anti-Semitism that he tortuously rationalizes. Max, alarmed by reports of anti-Jewish persecution in Germany, asks Martin to look after his actress sister, Griselle, who is performing in Berlin. When she is murdered by Nazi storm troopers after being refused refuge at the Schulse house, Max takes revenge through a clever epistolary ploy that provides a satisfying surprise ending.
Nearly 60 years after its initial publication, Kressman's story serves not only as a reminder of Nazi horrors but as a cautionary tale in light of current racial, ethnic and nationalist intolerance.