GERMANY AND AUSTRIA ON THE EVE OF THE HOLOCAUST: 1933-1938
Films to Watch
Books to Read
The Passenger, by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
Boschwitz was born in Berlin in 1915 to a Jewish father and Protestant mother. He fled Germany at the age of twenty with his widowed mother.
Shortly after he heard the news of Kristallnacht in 1938, Boschwitz wrote Die Reisender. He dashed of the book in four weeks. He was twenty-three.When mother and son arrived in England, the war had started. Boschwitz, who held a German passport, was arrested as an enemy alien and sent to Australia. He soon made his way to South Africa, all while he rewrote his novel and sent letters full of notes to his mother about the changes he would soon make. In 1942, he boarded a ship bound for Liverpool, which was torpedoed. Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz drowned, age twenty-seven.
Working with those notes, in 2018 editors in Germany republished the novel and it has just been published in the US and Great Britain. Here’s Jonathan Freedman’s excellent review of The Passenger in The Guardian.
The Murder of Professor Schlick: The Rise and Fall of the Vienna Circle, by David Edmonds
David Edmonds, a BBC presenter and research fellow at Oxford, also co-hosts the very lively podcast series, Philosophy Bites. This is his portrait of interwar Vienna and the philosophers who met, argued and mused about the fate of mankind, all while the world was about to go to hell. Here’s a review by Frederic Rafael in The New Centurion.We would be remiss, however, in not strongly recommending the book Edmonds co-wrote with John Eidinow, Wittgenstein’s Poker, all about the enmity between two of the greatest philosophers Vienna produced: Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School, by Stuart Jeffries
Reviewed by Andrew Gallix in The Irish Times as “a towering work of staggering scholarship,” Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School, is a lively, humorous group portrait of that eclectic group of mostly men who were, on their best days, fairly grumpy, but whose writings greatly influenced us all. Nearly all of them were Jews and all fled the Nazis. Walter Benjamin killed himself on the Spanish/French border, while many of the others found refuge in Los Angeles. Theodore Adorno loathed the city. Not surprisingly, he failed to make it as a screenwriter, loathed jazz and, like many other German Jewish refugees, fled the California sunshine for postwar Germany.
I Belong To Vienna: A Jewish family’s Story of Exile and Return, by Anna Goldenberg
We highly recommend Anna Goldenberg’s I Belong To Vienna: A Jewish family’s Story of Exile and Return, which enjoyed strong reviews, like this one in Kirkus. Goldenberg lived in New York where she had been cultural editor at The Forward. She herself returned to Vienna where she writes for the weekly Falter. In this book, we follow her grandparents, who traveled radically different paths of survival during the war, emigrated to Poughkeepsie, New York, and returned home to Vienna almost immediately. You can read it in an evening, and it’s well worth the effort.
Other People’s Houses, by Lore Segal
Segal spent the war years moving from house to house in England. Her experiences led to her first fictionalized set of stories, Other People’s Houses, published in 1964 and recently republished. Here’s Oliver Burlough’s review in The Guardian. “It was first published 54 years ago and yet feels as timely as any book I’ve read this year.
Segal’s parents managed to get out of Vienna; her father, who had been imprisoned for a while as an enemy alien, died of a stroke shortly after war’s end. Segal and her mother moved to New York after the war, where Segal married, raised a family, and published several highly regarded novels.
Still Alive, by Ruth Kluger
Strong stuff. First published in English in 2001, and with an introduction by Lore Segal, Kluger tells her story of horrors and degradation in a memoir critics state is equal to the memoirs of Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel. Highly praised in Publishers Weekly, here’s the starred review.