1. Hitler’s War began with the systematic destruction of the avant-garde, and now ironically, more than 70 years later, it is the piece of Holocaust history still making front-page news. Why do you think there is such a renewed interest in this topic?
2. How does Adolf Hitler’s background as a painter connect to the character of Felix in the novel? When Felix asks Julian if he has talent, how should Julian have answered him? If Julian had answered differently, would it have changed things? Is rejection to blame for Felix’s downfall?
3. What happens when René finally admits that he’s in love with Charlotte? Did Felix change before their eyes or had his venom and hate been there all along? Did René betray Felix or did Felix betray himself?
4. Who the hell am I to save Germany’s artists? Julian thinks to himself. And yet, Ernst Engel, the famous artist, believed Julian could somehow make a difference. Why does Engel choose Julian to penetrate Wilhelm Von Bredow’s inner circle –why not René?
5. Julian describes Charlotte as “lacking warmth and vibrancy … empty and callous … and a seductive snake . . . ugly on the inside.” Does Charlotte prove him right? What is her role in the story, and how much responsibility does she bear?
6. Why does Charlotte love René? Do you believe that their love is true? Charlotte argues that “It doesn’t matter that Felix claimed those paintings . . . the important thing is that René Levi’s artwork survived the war.” Do you agree? What’s more important: the art or the artist?
7. Lisa Barr wrote in the Huffington Post: “Behind every surviving ‘Matisse’ is the untold story of scores of young, aspiring artists whose potential brilliance never saw the light of a canvas; whose talent was destroyed too soon to have a legacy. Those artists whose hands were bound must have their place in our history.” Does Barr succeed in giving a voice to these unknown artists?
Questions were compiled by Rachel Kamin, Director, The Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural & Learning Center, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.