Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, March 9, 2015

Survival in the Shadows - Seven Jews Hidden in Hitler's Berlin by Barbara Lovenheim (2003)

Not long ago I read and posted on a very interesting book, The Last Jews in Berlin by Leonard Gross.  It dealt in a very moving and detailed fashion with the lives of Jewish people who survived in Berlin during World War II inspite of the Naźi's determination to make the city free of all Jews.  Survival in the Shadows - Seven Jews Hidden in Hitler's Berlin by Barbara Lovenheim covers much of the same ground, focusing not on all the survivors so much as Gross did but on seven Jews.  Both books strongly make the point that all the surviving Jews had the help of Germans who knew they were risking their lives to assist them.  Some Germans hated Hitler and felt he was destroying Germany.  Others were paid in Marks or food, the search for food is ever present.  

Lovenheim's book focuses on seven people, from two families.   We see how sometimes they hid in apartments, sometimes in cellers and sometimes they passed as non- Jewish.  I really hated one character in the story, a beautiful Jewish woman who had turned in over three hundred Jews in hiding to the SS, for rewards.  As the story proceeds we see the growing American and RAF bombing raids on Berlin.  The Jews are terrified of the raids, sometimes with as many as a 1000 bombers, but they relished seeing the Germans being attacked and they sensed the end was coming for the Germans.  Lovenheim does a great job describing the terror of the bomb raids.  

Two of the seven, the young men .Jews worked for Seimens, with false identification papers.  The two boys who worked for Siemens did so before they went into hiding; they were recruited as slave laborers. But when Erich heard a rumor that Goebbels was planning to arrest all German slave laborers and send them to the camps, the group went into hiding.  

Siemens made heavy use of slave labor during WW II and was very much a pro-Nazi company. One of the best scenes in the books occurred right after the war when the two young men went back to Seimens and gave their once proud Nazi boss a severe beating but stopped short of killing him.  

(Inside a Seimens airplane parts factory in a concentration camp)

There is a lot of fascinating and exciting details in Lovenheim's great book.  She provides us with information on the post war history  of the Jews and those Germans who helped them.  The arrival of Russian troops meant liberation but they were raw undisciplined fighters who had to be treated with caution. In one wonderful scene, A Russian Jewish soldier nearly breaks down when he meets one of the Jewish men.  The Jews in hiding did not all fully understand the great depths of horror of the Holocaust.

Right after the war all Germans but a few die hard Nazis, said they never supported Hitler and always opposed his policies.  I loved it when one of the hiders said most Nazis were stupid and can be fooled with bluster and self confidence.  

It was great seeing the families moving to America and two young couples marrying. 

Survival in the Shadows - Seven Jews Hidden in Hitler's Berlin by Barbara Lovenheim is a welcome addition to Holocaust literature.  I recommend it highly.  

For background information on Lovenheim and her book, I refer you to her excellant wepage,

Mel u


Unknown said...

Very interesting - as ever, Mel! Have you read Martin Amis' latest - 'The Zone of Interest'?

Mel u said...

Elizabeth MacDonald. No I have not . I checked him on Amazon and he sounds very interesting. Thanks for the suggestion.

Mel u said...

anonymous commentator. I only posted your comment to support diverse speech but the Hellstorm Documentsry is gross antiSemetic propaganda totally discredited. Your views are on a level with holocaust deniers.