The Seventh Gate is the story of teenager Sophie who lives in Berlin with a Communist father, an overbearing mother and a seemingly autistic brother. The cast of characters is huge, including Isaac Zarco, a Jewish expert on the Kabbalah, and a number of circus performers, most of whom have disabilities or deformities. As Sophie gets drawn into this circle of people who would later suffer at the hands of the Nazis, at the same time as her own parents get drawn into the Nazi party she finds herself living a double life. To make life even more complicated, she is love with a young Nazi, despite hating the ideas he stands for.
Please note that some of these questions will act as spoilers for the book.
1. is Rini correct in her assertion that Sophie, as a Christian, cannot understand the fears of German Jews in 1932?
2. why does Isaac trust Sophie and share the activities of The Ring with her?
3. what are the reasons suggested for Sophie’s father’s conversion to Nazism? Do you accept these?
4. Sophie describes herself as having allowed her friendship with Rini to be ‘buried’. How much control did she have over her continued friendship with the Jewish girl?
5. why does Sophie develop her relationship with Tonio despite her hatred of his Nazi beliefs?
6. do you find it surprising that doctors and nurses are so keen to carry out the sterilisation programme and later the murders of children with mental and physical disabilities? Why do you think they do this?
7. how far is Dr Hassgall correct when he describes the Nazi sterilisation programme as a natural extension of the discrimination faced by disabled children?
8. can you understand Sophie’s actions in attempting to betray her father?
9. how would you characterise the relationships between Sophie and Tonio and Sophie and Isaac? What are the similarities and differences between the two affairs?
10. how do the Seven Gates as described by Isaac relate to Sophie’s life and her involvement with The Ring?
You can use HMD resources to find out more about the different victims of Nazi persecution, including the Victims of Nazi euthanasia programme T4. You can also find out more about the events of Kristallnacht, which feature in the book.