Author's Words on Rafael Romaniotes

29.11.2014 07:00

Who is Rafael Romaniotes?

Rafael Romaniotes is Greek growing up in the town of Argos the son of a dentist. He does not have a prominent role in the book, for he only appears in two chapters. However, he is an important witness, in that he is a member of the worst part of the camp "Sonderkommando". Rafael's role is passive and as such represents the story of millions whose innocent lives were destroyed by a process over which they had no control, namely the camp. Other characters in the book influence their destiny, whereas Rafael simply relates the facts. 

He is also an important witness of the Rebellion that took place in October 1944. In this situation, the inmates, manning the Crematorium buildings, rebelled and overpowered the guards. The rebellion was brutally suppressed and every member of the team executed. Rafael participates in this action, albeit in a characteristically passive role. He escapes, but returns back into the camp hiding in the Canada section. Franz finds him and gives him up to Boger of the Gestapo. He does so, knowing that the man will be tortured and executed. He states that he did so to save the wider Canada group. In his post-war trial, he is accused of shooting the man.

Rafael has few links to other characters. His main link is to Janek who tricks him into the Sonderkommando. There, he is given the job of drawing gold teeth from corpses. Some of the these teeth are used to pay off corrupt Blockführers in Monowitz from where the gunpowder is smuggled.

What was the significance of Rafael being Greek?

Rafael is Greek for several reasons. First, the Crematorium was manned by Greeks at the time of the rebellion. Second, Greece is the home of democracy. We see this democracy crumble and compromised, just as his best friend Angelos deserts him in his moment of need. Greece was terribly exploited by the Nazis in this period.Please click here for more.

How would you describe his relationship with Franz?

Rafael has a limited relationship with Franz. Ultimately, Franz is responsible for his death, even though he claims he did it to save others. In their confrontation, we see Black Angel (Franz's inmate nickname) meets Raphael covered in white feathers which is symbolic of innocence meeting cold realism. Rafael is a dreamer and seeks the gentlest of all arts in poetry but is no match when reality calls.

What is Rafael's religious significance?

Rafael is an Archangel associated with healing. The Greek religion is predominantly Orthodox and has a strong influence of the Archangels. We also see the link to the Greek myth of Helen and the pagan Gods of the past. 

What inspired the character Rafael Romaniotes?

Rafael was not inspired by any real characters in history. His friend is a writer of surrealist literature and Rafael himself is a surrealist poet. In this way, Angelos and Rafael have remote similarities to writers of this time. However,neither Rafael nor Angelos represent real persons and their opinions are not those of any real member of the Greek 'Generation of 30s'.

Please click here for more.