Badenheim 1939

Badenheim 1939


'A masterpiece ... the greatest novel of the Holocaust' The Guardian

A haunting, dreamlike portrayal of the encroaching horror of the Holocaust onto a genteel MittelEuropean resort town

Badenheim, a resort town near the forests of Vienna, is preparing for the arts festival of the summer season. The hotel workers and local tradespeople rush to prepare the small town for the influx of vacationers. But just as the season is getting into full swing, a small note appears on a municipal notice board: the Sanitation Department is announcing an increase in its jurisdiction. No one knows what the Sanitation Department is, but no matter – the festival carries on.

Soon inspectors are spread all over town, bringing estrangement, suspicion and mistrust wherever they go. Meanwhile, the guests carry on pursuing their pleasures and the townspeople attend to their troubles. Then another announcement appears: all Jews must register with the Sanitation Department.

An allegory, satire and fable all in one, Badenheim 1939 is a story of denial and normalisation, masterfully creating an atmosphere of impending dread and horror. Gripping and unforgettable, this is one of most intriguing and eerie books ever written about the Holocaust.


  • Aharon Appelfeld's controlled fiction compresses large themes into small spaces... He is a worthy successor to Kafka'
    Jonathan Raban, The New York Times Book Review

About the author

Aharon Appelfeld

Aharon Appelfeld authored more than 45 acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction and received many international awards including the MLA Commonwealth Award, the Independent Foreign Fiction prize, the prix Médicis étranger, the Israel prize, and the Nelly Sachs prize. Born in Czernowitz, Bukovina (now part of Ukraine) in 1932, he survived the Holocaust and passed away in Israel in 2018.
Learn More

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more