The Passenger

Written by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

Review written by Ali Karim

Ali Karim was a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.

The Passenger
Pushkin Press
RRP: £8.99
Released: September 30 2021

“Am I travelling?


I am stuck in the same place like a person who takes refuge in a cinema where he sits in his seat without moving as the films flicker away – and all the while his worries are lurking outside the exit.” Otto Silbermann

The narrative details the journey[s] businessman Otto Silbermann undertakes following the ransacking of his home in November 1938, Berlin. Otto and his wife, Elfrede have left it too late to flee Germany. Thankfully they sent their Son Eduard to France, but remained in Nazi-controlled Germany. Elfrede is Aryan, but has to go into hiding because she is married to a Jew – though Otto Silbermann is a non-practising/secular Jew – but shares none of the Semitic features that the Nazis are looking for.

Silbermann manages to liquidate his business at a fraction of its true worth to one of his managers. He leaves his wife in hiding with her brother, and tries to urge his son in France to try (by any means necessary) to get his papers for entry into France. He packs his money into a case, and flees Berlin taking the train.

Otto’s crossing into Belgium is unsuccessful so has to head back to Germany. He meets people; he hides in plain-sight and criss-crosses the Fatherland trying to avoid detection from the Nazis. The National Socialists are embedded throughout all the societal structures of Germany, so he evades discovery by changing trains, travelling alone throughout Germany with only paranoia for a companion.

The people Silbermann meets and the situations he has to confront, make this a fascinating chase thriller, but one that provokes deep thought and contemplation.

They say “paranoia is a heightened sense of awareness” and for Silbermann it is also a descent into the darkest edges of a personal hell – a test of mental and physical endurance.

We have a huge debt to Pushkin Press for bringing the second and final novel by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz back into print. It’s presented in a newly edited edition, in-line with what the author intended; as alluded to in his final letter to his mother, in 1942 before his tragic death.

Written in a fury over four weeks, this novel was Boschwitz’s method of coping with the events of November 1938 in Germany, or rather trying to comprehend the horrors of Kristallnacht. It was published in Great Britain by Hamish Hamilton in 1939 as “The Man Who Took Trains” and a year later appeared via Harper in the US titled “The Fugitive”. It fell into obscurity until recently. More information about the background to the novel, and the angry young man who penned such a thought-provoking and genuinely scary thriller is presented within both the preface, and the afterward.

Now coming in paperback, this little book will entertain but will also force the reader to examine their own thoughts, their thinking as the pages race by.

The memory of reading this novel will lay in the mind like the shards of glass that fell in November 1938, throughout Germany.

My favourite novel of 2021.

Editor’s notes

This rediscovery by Pushkin Press is translated by Philip Boehm and is prefaced by André Aciman and contains an interesting and thought-provoking afterward by Peter Graf.


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