Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Death's Head Chess Club

The Death's Head Chess Club

A Novel

John Donoghue

Farrar, Straus and Giroux




A novel of the improbable friendship that arises between a Nazi officer and a Jewish chessplayer in Auschwitz

SS Obersturmfuhrer Paul Meissner arrives in Auschwitz from the Russian front wounded and fit only for administrative duty. His most pressing task is to improve camp morale and he establishes a chess club, and allows officers and enlisted men to gamble on the games. Soon Meissner learns that chess is also played among the prisoners, and there are rumors of an unbeatable Jew known as "the Watchmaker." Meissner's superiors begin to demand that he demonstrate German superiority by pitting this undefeated Jew against the best Nazi players. Meissner finds Emil Clément, the Watchmaker, and a curious relationship arises between them. As more and more games are played, the stakes rise, and the two men find their fates deeply entwined.
Twenty years later, the two meet again in Amsterdam—Meissner has become a bishop, and Emil is playing in an international chess tournament. Having lost his family in the horrors of the death camps, Emil wants nothing to do with the ex-Nazi officer despite their history, but Meissner is persistent. "What I hope," he tells Emil, "is that I can help you to understand that the power of forgiveness will bring healing." As both men search for a modicum of peace, they recall a gripping tale of survival and trust.
A suspenseful meditation on understanding and guilt, John Donoghue's The Death's Head Chess Club is a bold debut and a rich portrait of a surprising friendship.





Konzentrationslager Auschwitz-III, Monowitz

It is late afternoon and the camp is quiet. The biting February wind blows from the east and prowls along the alleys between the...


Praise for The Death's Head Chess Club

"The thought that a former Nazi SS officer could develop a close friendship with a Jewish survivor who lost everyone he loved at Auschwitz generates an extraordinary and multifaceted plot. "—The New York Journal of Books

"An ambitious debut novel that raises uneasy questions."—The Financial Times

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

John Donoghue

John Donoghue has published numerous articles about the treatment of mental illness in a variety of medical journals. He lives in Liverpool and The Death's Head Chess Club is his first novel.

John Donoghue

Andrew Donoghue

John Donoghue

From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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