A novel of the improbable friendship that arises between a Nazi officer and a Jewish chessplayer in Auschwitz
In 1962, Emil Clément comes face to face with Paul Meissner at a chess tournament in Holland. They haven’t seen one another in almost two decades. Clément, once known only as “the Watchmaker,” is a Jewish former inmate of Auschwitz, where he was forced to play against the Nazi guards. If he won, he could save a fellow prisoner’s life—but if he lost, he would lose his own. Meissner, a soft-spoken bishop, was also at Auschwitz. He was the SS officer who forced the Watchmaker to play, so that the guards might test their superiority against the rumored talents of the “unbeatable Jew.”
As Emil and Meissner begin to search for a modicum of peace, they reflect on their shared history, recalling a gripping tale of survival and, ultimately, of trust. A bold and richly layered novel of an unlikely bond, The Death’s Head Chess Club by John Donoghue is a suspenseful meditation on guilt and the nature of forgiveness.