A Simulated Diary of a Jewish Hamburger


An Internet diary that, instead of serving news and musings, takes you moment by moment through an 80-year-old story: this is the vision of Swedish novelist, pilot, and documentarian Torkel S. Wächter, mastermind behind the literature and family history project On This Day 80 Years Ago.

Compelled to investigate what happened to his German-Jewish grandfather after the Nazis took power, Wächter uncovered a huge trove of documents in his parents’ attic. The sprawling, hybrid result of his findings brings to light the suddenly altered course of one family’s history.

On This Day, the companion to Wächter’s 32 Postkarten, follows Gustav Wächter, a Jewish senior tax inspector, and his family during Hitler’s rise to power, from January through July 1933. As the situation in his native Hamburg grows tense, the behavior of Wächter’s colleagues and friends changes according to their political loyalties. Eventually, his superior is forced to write a report that dismisses Wächter from government service, and each of his sons is blacklisted.

The site offers an innovative model for engaging history—through family, technology, and writing—and makes for a fascinating, if difficult, read.

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