The Museum of an extinct race

A future too possible in a world too impossible to imagine.

Adolf Hitler’s Germany has won the war, conquering the world. He has succeeded in eliminating any vestige of Jews and Judaism. 70 years later his successors realize Hitler’s desire for a museum to memorialize that extermination. Jonathan Rosen’s novel, told through the eyes of its two protagonists—Dano Adamik, a Czech native coerced into curating the museum and Eva Novak, a museum docent with Jewish heritage—unveils a beaten, subjugated society, dominated by a self-proclaimed, super race.

Through emotionally charged scenes of an all-too-real, anti-civilization, the novel plunges us into into a world absent of Jews, yes, but moreso a planet bereft of the ethical guidance of Judaism.

"The Museum of an Extinct Race" is a soul-shaking tale of faith and resurrection in the face of crushing persecution. The novel resonated with me long after I reached the last page.”

Claire Wachtel, Editor Emeritus, Harper-Collins



November 9, 2016

In Prague’s central square, as everywhere in the Reichdom, 30 years after his death, Hitler’s statue looms undisturbed. His rigid pose—pigeon-dropping stained—stands merely 61 meters, 247 steps, from the front door of Dano Adamik’s apartment house. Similar statues are mandated in virtually every town square in the known world—Hitler’s pale, implacable face barely noticed now by passersby, as if he were just another of the wrecked, relic buildings the government refuses to renovate. Occasionally overnight, a bold youngster throws splashes of yellow or red paint onto the memorial, a crime still punishable by death. No one has ever been caught or prosecuted for this crime. Adamik does not wonder why.



Yet, the Führer’s influence still dominates the landscape, like a volcanic eruption that occurred a century prior. The black lava may have faded to gray under the relentless sun while an occasional plant breaks through, greening the ashen surface. The violence of the original eruption has become a tale handed down from grandparents to children, almost a fable now. 

As always, Adamik is awakened by dawn breaking through the blinds he leaves cracked open in place of an alarm clock, the horror of his dream evaporating. He feels his face for a moment to assure himself there are no rat-bite wounds. The view from his bed exposes not only Hitler’s statue, but one spire of St. Vitus Cathedral, the iconic center of Prague. The Reich purposely left St. Vitus undisturbed, as with all the old religious paraphernalia. The masses can have religion as long as the Reichdom dictates the context, as long as it controls the message. 

Adamik struggles out of bed and heads toward the window, careful to avoid the frayed, wooden plank that a month ago had left a stubborn splinter in his foot. He had chosen the one-bedroom, one-bath walk-up just south of Old Town only for this vantage. The apartment is a mere 45 square meters, with fissured ceilings and a galley kitchen hiding an oven used just twice. Stains blotch the bathtub, obsessive scrubbing can never remove. The lessor commented more than once at the showing and then three times prior to Adamik’s signing the lease, “Are you positive this is for you? Surely you can afford better.” The windows, though, were large enough to spy on the world, adequate to serve his needs. One adornment Adamik has added—two pictures on the wall taken surreptitiously of Eva—one walking toward him, one of her back, heading away.

Daily, he forces himself to look out at the square to interrogate Orloj, the astronomical clock and the square’s prime tenant since 1410. Most often now surveying that brick tower, he ignores the two central timepieces, the astronomical dial and the zodiac ring that dominate the tower’s façade. Adamik’s focus after five years of ritualized study is centered on the four, wood-carved figures flanking the clock-face—Vanity, Lust, Greed and Death. Always the Skeleton, Death’s icon, absorbs him most. At each hour’s strike, the Skeleton, holding an hourglass in one hand and a bell in the other, rings that bell, signalling the others. In unison, they shake their heads, “No,” perpetually responding, “We are not yet ready to go.” One time, just once, Adamik imagined them nodding their heads up and down, answering, “Yes, we will disappear.” Going on half a decade, he has not yet surrendered that hope.

In the square, a local policeman rounds up a group of nighttime squatters, beating them into retreat. These offspring of the SS rule a reluctant planet with iron-fisted fear and paranoia that perfectly fits human psychology. However, no matter what other lessons Adamik has learned over the years, one fact rises above all else: People are people. Hate and prejudice and fear last just so long as motivators and then life goes on. The masses need to earn a living and feed a family. In the face of those pressures, world domination becomes not so much fun.

“Not simple,” the ministers rail, “trying to control the erratic people of Korea from 10,000 miles away or the volatile, explosive Muslims or even the ever-inebriated, unruly Russians lurking at our doorstep.” Add to that, the former United States is unrelenting—freedom injected into their marrow. No manner of oppression and suppression seems able to quash their spirit. And now, their recent invention—the Unterstreichung—what they call the Internet, but what the Reich has termed the “Underline”—so innocuous-appearing at first. The mindless bureaucrats were forever too myopic to realize that their centrally generated propaganda now served only to numb the masses. The Internet’s million messages emanating from a million random sources shouted out the priorities of the individual, sowing the seeds for inevitable revolution. 

Adamik turns to his bookshelf, picking out a book hidden behind two others and wrapped in a fake cover, disguised as a cookbook. Until this morning, he has managed to ignore the novel—a banned book he had found ten years prior while searching amongst the relics buried in a trunk confiscated from a Jewish family in London following the war. At age 40 then, he had devoured the book, amazed at how a book such as Nineteen Eighty-Four could possibly have been published right after the end of the war. Great Britain had been under special surveillance and monitoring during those first post-war years. A three-tiered hierarchy controlled all publishing; newspapers, magazines, all publications had to be scrutinized. Any item containing a particle of criticism of the Germans or the Führer. Nineteen Eighty-Four somehow had managed to tunnel through that blockade.

At the time, Adamik had speculated that the rigid, concrete bureaucrats likely interpreted the novel to be a condemnation of Communism, not realizing that George Orwell’s salvos targeted all totalitarian regimes. Six months after its publication, Strum Denitz, the Minister of Culture in Berlin, got hold of the novel, trying to ascertain the root of the book’s overwhelming popularity. Denitz must have realized Orwell was attacking the Fatherland as much as Communists, and immediately halted publication. All known copies had to be surrendered on penalty of a minimum of ten years’ incarceration. Ultimately, Orwell had been hanged in 1949 in front of Westminster Abbey and left there rotting, crows devouring his tubercular corpse.

Adamik turns to the final chapter, the scene that had reverberated in his head on awakening this morning. He forces himself to re-read the climax, the hero tortured by his greatest fear—rats encaged around his face, eating away at his eyes. Day after day, Adamik has felt his conscience similarly attacking him. What was conscience anyway, but merely society’s veil cloaking everyone’s brain? That rationalization has done little to assuage his nightmares.

Outside in the square, the last nighttime squatter fends off the policeman’s blows with nary a complaint, perhaps used to the abuse. Another grinning officer, a few hundred meters further down the road, adds one last kick that again sends the squatter sprawling, the last pin down in a game of bowling. An exact replica of the scene might have taken place a hundred years before. That is, until that officer, likely frustrated with the squatter’s sluggishness, takes out his Luger and shoots the creature between the eyes. The policeman moves on without a glance back, leaving the sanitation crew to soon dispose of the remains. Adamik is sure that particular climax would not have taken place a hundred or a thousand years before—not with a gun or a sword or a crossbow.

The quandary of conscience festers. Or possibly what gnaws relentlessly at Adamik’s own eyes has nothing to do with conscience at all. Perhaps the merciless throbbing he is subjected to is merely obsessive lust—lust for the unobtainable.


"Short-listed for the Faulkner-Wisdom Novel Award

Finalist for the Ohio Fiction Prize and the Gival Novel Prize."

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