On January 30 1933, a German-Jewish civil servant is sitting at his desk at the Baumeisterstrasse Tax Office, in central Hamburg. He has just signed a number of documents and is looking out of the window when one of his staff rushes into the room without knocking and announces that Adolf Hitler has just been appointed Chancellor of Germany.
To begin with, it seems as if Hitler’s appointment will not necessarily affect the German-Jewish civil servant and his family to any significant extent. But then there is a fire in the parliament building in Berlin, and the changes come thick and fast. The family’s eldest son loses his job with Statistisches Landesamt, the middle son is no longer able to find work as an actor, and the youngest son is excluded from university. Our civil servant has been employed within the revenue and customs service since the year 1900, and cannot therefore be dismissed in accordance with the new law on the ”Aryanisation” of the civil service which comes into force in April 1933. In order to get rid of him, some of his lower-ranking colleagues send an anonymous letter accusing him of irregularities which he has not committed. This leads to an investigation into his reliability.
This investigation, which is preserved in the Hamburg City Archive, is a unique historical document. The book is based on these previously unpublished documents. Here, the German-Jewish civil servant Gustav Wächter defends himself, and his colleagues make their accusations, in their own words. We make the acquaintance of committed Nazis and opportunists, but we also meet the close friends of the Wächter family.