One woman's moving story of her journey with her mother to find their past and the tragedy that haunts it
In 1937, Edith Westerfeld's parents--before being killed by the Nazis--sent her from Germany to live with relatives in America. Fifty-four years later, Edith decided that it was time to, with her grown daughter Fern, revisit the town she had left so many years before. For Edith the trip was a chance to reconnect and reconcile with her past; for Fern it was a chance to learn what lay behind her mother's silent grief. On their journey, Fern and her mother shared many extraordinary encounters with the townspeople and--more importantly--with one another, closing the divide that had long stood between them.
"With precise and often moving prose, [Chapman] discovers truths about her mother's past." --Chicago Tribune
"Measured and mesmerizing, Chapman's account...constitutes a new and profound perspective on the legacy of the Holocaust." --Booklist
When asked to accompany her mother on a return visit to her native Germany, Chapman jumped at the opportunity. At stake was a chance to reclaim both her ancestors and her own mother, Edith, whose past as a Holocaust escapee had created an emotional barrier between the two of them. "She lost her childhood to the war," Chapman writes tenderly, "and, in a way, I lost my childhood to her." In 1938, at the age of 12, Edith's parents sent her from Stockstadt am Rhein to live in Chicago with relatives who treated her badly. Chapman, a former Chicago Tribune reporter, lovingly describes her scarred mother's decision to return to her hometown; the emotional catharsis and peace her return brings; and the various reactions her return engenders in the townspeople. (Some old classmates throw Edith a party, but others will not look at her.) Chapman's narrative is strongest when she writes as journalist rather than memoirist, letting the Germans speak for themselves. She introduces two gripping individuals: the town historian, Hans, who lives in remorse and humiliation because he failed to help Edith's mother; and Mina, Edith's family's maid and soul-sister, whose defiance and hatred of the Nazis raged in her until her death. Although at times Chapman's prose seems too sentimental, her report of a German town's reactions to a Holocaust survivor's return is moving and engrossing. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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April 02, 2001
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