... since it has so many elements that should speak directly to me as both reader, writer, and Jewish enthusiast.
Maybe it is the satirical element of this short work that bothers me. There seems to be such a rich mine of material here that Appelfeld could work with, but the satire dumbs it up, telling us how to feel. He shys away from making direct statments about the characters or their setting. When you have two dimensional characters, there is little for the reader to do but accept them at face value or not.
Perhaps it is the "message" of the book (a term I hate, since fiction does not have a message, but multiple messages). The characters are drawn in largely negative tones, making it appear that they deserved their fate. In the difficult venture of creating a medium to portray the Holocaust, perhaps this is an angle we don't need.