Study Guide

Sigismund Markus in The Tin Drum

By Günter Grass

Sigismund Markus

Sigismund is a Jewish toy dealer who supplies Oskar with tin drums. Sigismund knows about Agnes's affair with Jan and begs Agnes to break it off, telling her:

"Don't bet on the Poles, if you got to bet on someone, bet on the Germans." (8.39)

This shows how much he cares for her, because it's clear that if the Germans prevail, it's all over for him.

The first description of anti-Semitism in the novel is when the guards throw Markus out of the cemetery where he's trying to attend Agnes's funeral. Sigismund eventually commits suicide on the night of Kristallnacht, which translates from German as "The Night of the Broken Glass." On this night, Germans and members of the Nazi Party waged a full frontal assault on Jewish citizens and their homes and shops, breaking windows, burning buildings, and beating up Jewish people.

Oskar rushes to Markus's toy store and sees the man dead. Oskar thinks of this as a merciful alternative to being tortured by the Nazi rioters, who realize that "Markus was no longer in, could no longer be harmed" (16.20). All in all, Markus is a kind man with a big heart who gets caught up in one of history's cruelest atrocities.

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