The Seventh Circle

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
230 Pages
Reviewed on 01/29/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

In the little Bavarian town of Fussen, Karl is an intelligent university student whose life is books, learning, and thinking. Karl is also a closet homosexual. His mother is aware of Karl’s preferences and accepts it. His father does not. Despite Karl and his lover’s attempts to keep their love a secret, the truth comes out. Karl spends the next 6 years in a concentration camp. His lover, Hermann, escapes the same fate because his father, the Mayor of Fussen and eventually, a member of the Nazi party and the SS, is able to protect him.

Karl is determined to somehow withstand the horrors of being a prisoner wearing a pink star...the sign of a homosexual. To his heartbreak and disgust, he realizes his best means of survival is to utilize his sexuality to service those in charge of him. Doing so keeps him alive in food and assigned easier work. But he suffers psychologically watching his fellow prisoners suffering and dying from incredibly inhuman punishments. I was horrified reading what the camp commanders inflicted on these poor souls. I could cite a dozen examples, but if you care at all about man’s inhumanity to man, I urge you to read The Seventh Circle yourself. Those punishments, and the accompanying hypocrisy of those inflicting them, are just too many to describe here.

Of the many historical fiction novels I have read that expose the horrors of persecution under the Nazi regime...and I’ve read a lot of them...none has disturbed and surprised me as much as The Seventh Circle by Thomas Bauer. The reason? This is the only account I’ve come across that discloses the humiliating and degrading treatment suffered by homosexuals at the hands of the SS. Stomach-turning. I wish I could say I “enjoyed” this book. I cannot. But I will never forget it. Thomas Bauer’s writing is excellent in every way, from the powerful descriptions to the realistic use of dialogue, to its well-developed primary characters and an appropriate conclusion. I read The Seventh Circle in 48 hours. It was impossible to put down. Heart-breaking, soul-stirring, and brilliant. Thanks for writing this important and enlightening book, Thomas Bauer.

Jack Magnus

The Seventh Circle is a historical fiction novel written by Thomas Bauer. Fussen was a quiet town far removed from the hustle and bustle of Berlin, Frankfurt, or the other big German cities. The little Bavarian enclave lay near the border of Austria and had been there since the ninth century, where its renown was based on the violin and lute-making industries passed on through generations. Karl Weber was the son of a local merchant, Franz Weber, whose dry goods shop enabled the family to live a life of some comfort. While Franz hoped that Karl would follow in his footsteps and eventually take over the family business, Karl had different dreams. His vision for the future lay in academia, and he was most happy studying literature.

A handsome youth, students of both genders sought out his attention, but while he enjoyed the company of the young women he met, Karl was sexually attracted to men. The one who he believed would be the love of his life, however, was found not at the university, but home in Fussen. Hermann Schrecht, son of the owner of the Castle Hotel, sat down to share a beer and chat with him one evening, and the two began falling in love. And, for a while, their growing relationship went under the radar, until a photograph of the two found its way to the authorities. Karl Weber would be arrested on the basis of the picture and his subsequent confession and would spend the next six years in concentration camps as Hitler waged war against the rest of the world, and Germany seemed to go insane.

In his foreword, Thomas Bauer mentions the memoir of Heinz Heger, The Men With the Pink Triangles, and indicates that “any similarities to my novel and his memoir is intentional.” I reread that as I was reading the story as The Seventh Circle often feels like a memoir. It’s a powerful story that held me spellbound as I once again read of the atrocities of the concentration camps, this time from the perspective of the gay inmates. The Seventh Circle is a beautiful read that brought to mind the works of Hermann Broche who was himself an inmate in a concentration camp and whose Sleepwalkers Trilogy and the father-son dichotomy resonate in this tale of generations and German culture. Karl’s story is every man and woman’s story; his experiences and ability to retain his humanity throughout the brutal and dehumanizing machine that was the Nazi experiment and the camps shine out throughout this work. And Bauer’s caution as expressed in his Foreword, decrying the rise in hate crimes and his need to “again raise the ghosts of our not too distant past,” is eloquently addressed throughout this stunning and accomplished work. The Seventh Circle should be on every thinking person’s must-read list. One that will make readers stop and consider what is going on right now. It’s most highly recommended.

K.C. Finn

The Seventh Circle is a work of fiction in the historical fiction, interpersonal drama, and cultural fiction sub-genres, and was penned by author Thomas Bauer. This deeply emotive work is intended for mature reading audiences and does contain scenes of graphic violence pertinent to the time period, as well as moderate scenes of a sexual nature. We find ourselves in the middle of the Nazi regime in Germany, where our young protagonist breaks the official laws of the country by having an affair with another man. Forced to wear the pink triangle and suffer the horrors of life in a concentration camp, we follow Karl through the many struggles he faces.

Author Thomas Bauer has crafted a heart-breaking and accurate account of some of the lesser-known victims of the Holocaust in this beautifully penned but truly tragic true-to-life story. One of the things which I really admired about the work was the tenderness with which its protagonist Karl is treated by the narrator, and how this juxtaposes against the unstoppably cruel behavior of everyone else whom he meets during the powerful regime of the Third Reich. The attention to detail in the historical scenes and settings gives a fully cinematic experience to each event, from the earlier moments in a small town right through to the death march to Dachau and beyond. What results is a visceral reading experience which is painful in places, but necessarily so, and I cannot recommend The Seventh Circle highly enough for those wishing to educate themselves on humanity’s past. A truly compelling read.