From Harvard to Holocaust - A Story of Escape, Forgiveness, and Freedom by John G. Stoessinger begins as an account of his escape, in the company of his mother and abussive stepfather, from Austria just before the Nazis take over in 1938. The author is ten and is heartbroken to leave his grandparents. He knows Jews are in danger in Vienna from the beatings he has received from Hitler youths but he is still terrified to leave his home. Stoessinger's stepfather gets a visa that will allow them to make it, by train, to Shanghai, where Jews are thought to be safe. We learn of his experiences in Shanghai, a European dominated city. He excels at school earning top honors. Through the help of a professor, he gets a scholarship to Grinwell College in Iowa. He excels there also and he begins one of the many romances that he will have. He gets a very Midwestern American girl from a wealthy family pregnant and enters into what he calls a "shotgun marriage". This is the beginning of a pattern where he seems to seduce a woman then abandons her when he either gets bored with her or she impedes his career. He gets a scholarship to Harvard and leaves his wife behind as she wants him to go into her father's business. His exwives seem to end up hating him. It was fun to see him work selling check writing machines to pay for his education and child support. By his own admission, he was a poor father.
When I began to read this book I did not know Stoessinger was a world famous political theorist, author of classic books, consultant to the head of the United Nations, advisor to leaders world wide. I think this might have been a good thing as I saw his career develop without knowing in advance his life course. We also learn a lot about academic politics at the highest levels, he relied on mentors to advance himself. In one almost surreal episode, he starts an affair, while married to one of his several spouses, with a mysterious seeming woman who claims to be an international financier, putting together huge loans for giant fees. Compressing a relationship in which we see long before Stoessinger does that the woman is a fraud, he writes letters of recommendation for her that gets him convicted of fraud. Through an understanding judge he escapes prison and is ordered to teach in a prison. Stoessinger's account of this is very interesting and it brought out the best in him. He was given a Federal Pardon by President Ronald Reagan for his efforts toward international peace. It was fun to go along on his international travels.
Stoessinger does come across as selfish, using countless women then moving on. He pretty much admits this. He also is kind, caring, emphatic and brilliant. He talks a good bit about how his early years impacted his character. His grandparents died in a concentration camp.
I received a review copy of this book.
The Kindle edition of this book is $14.95. This is way too much. I liked this book but cannot in good consciousness endorse the purchase at that price.