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Books

Holocaust Survivors
Generation Exodus: The Fate of Young Jewish Refugees from Nazi Germany by
Walter Laqueur. Brandeis University Press, 388 pp., $29.95.

Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, ed. Mark J. Harris and Deborah Oppenheimer. Bloomsbury, 292 pp., $44.95 ($14.95 paper). Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (video) produced by
Deborah Oppenheimer and directed by Mark J. Harris. Warner Brothers Video,

$14.95. Reclaiming Heimat: Trauma and Mourning in Memoirs by Jewish Austrian Reemigres by Jacqueline Vansant. Wayne State University Press, 204 pp., $34.95. Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, tr. Anthea Bell. Random House, 298 pp., $25.95 ($13.95
paper).

Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation recently completed over 50,000 interviews with Holocaust survivors. The U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum is conducting its own interviews before the rapidly diminishing cohort of survivors is gone. Both face the task of mastering a mountain of materials. The five items under review here are a small selection from a very large body of contributions to the effort to preserve the record. How does one deal usefully and meaningfully with highly diverse stories and yet produce a coherent account? Some lessons may be learned from their uneven successes. The most ambitious of these undertakings is that of Walter Laqueur, historian and editor of the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.

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Lacqueur restricts himself to a cohort born in Germany and Austria (and other German-speaking areas) between 1914 and 1926-a cohort to which both he and I belong. Members of this cohort were old enough to be able to remember their lives before emigration and young enough to be able to make a start in their new countries. As Lacqueur has noted elsewhere (Partisan Review), this cohort has written more than 2,000 memoirs, in contrast to the relative lack of writing by their parents' generation. A few of that generation did write; their work has been published privately or archived or published posthumously. Most were too busy adapting, making a living, attempting not to remember. Why the Holocaust was not a subject for conversation or research for a long time is an interesting question, addressed only in recent years. Some of the children of that cohort have begun to look into the history of their parents: the work of Oppenheimer and Harris is one example. Laqueur preempts criticism by referring to Voltaire's comment that "those who write history are bound to be upbraided both for what they said and what they omitted" and he is surely right. And yet ... He begins with several excellent background chapters, concerning the situation of young German Jews before 1933 and in the Hitler years. He notes their great diversity regarding economic, political, and religious matters. Less is said about Austria, where the situation differed in important respects. Laqueur and his team use written documents and large numbers of interviews. Indeed, for him this research has been a life-long project. Regrettably, the total number of individuals quoted or mentioned is not given, nor are they classified in any way. The principal basis of organization is by country of refuge. Given the large numbers dealt with, some statistics might have been helpful, as would a systematic bibliography providing reference to published materials cited, rather than a general bibliographic essay providing additional sources. The summing-up chapter casts the net much more widely, both geographically and generationally. In 1933 "about half a million Jews" resided in Germany, most long established. At the time of the Anschluss, there were about 171,000 Jews in Vienna, only a few elsewhere in Austria. Their numbers were increased to 220,000 by the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, classifying anyone with one Jewish grandparent as a Jew. In Germany intermarriage and conversion had been so frequent that some had predicted the disappearance of Jews there altogether.

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Those who escaped went primarily to England, to France and other parts of Europe, to Palestine, the U.S., and Canada, but also Australia, South Africa, Rhodesia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Shanghai. Perhaps necessarily, but to me unfortunately, emphasis goes to the most famous of the lot; the selections are arbitrary. I missed: Beate Gordon, who helped to include women's rights in the Japanese constitution, the conductor Julius Rudel, the literary scholar Egon Schwarz, the playwright Tom Stoppard, the anthropologist Eric Wolf, among others. The treatment of materials from interviews or written sources in most cases comes in such small snippets that no context can be seen. It seems to be assumed that many of the names will be recognized. Occasionally a story gets a bizarre twist. Speaking of the refugees who went to Britain as domestics, a topic not treated adequately in the literature, Laqueur writes: "The experience of the Schneiders, a husband and wife from Vienna, who went to a remote castle in Scotland, with twenty-two rooms and twelve bathrooms was not atypical ... [W]hen she [the mistress] asked Mr. Schneider to give a hand to the gardener, the man went into a state of panic because, much as he wanted to please his employer, he was not willing to accept amputation." Amusing as this story might be as told here, it does not represent the text. It is absurd and seems to be a rendering by a non-German speaking assistant. The humor of the original account rests on the difference between the English idiom and its literal translation into German, meaning nothing more threatening than "to shake hands." There is no reference to panic, only puzzlement; nor did the incident lead to an ending of the Schneiders' stay at the castle. (Nor, indeed, did the Schneiders belong to Laqueur's chronological cohort). Into the Arms of Strangers, the Oscar-winning film and its companion volume, document a segment of Laqueur' s cohort, the Children's Transport that brought 10,000 children from Austria and Germany to Britain between November 10, 1938 (the infamous Kristallnacht) and September 2, 1939, when war broke out. The initial impetus to persuade the British Parliament to undertake this remarkable effort came from a group of Quakers. Nothing comparable existed elsewhere, although some children were part of a youth emigration movement that brought them to children's villages in Palestine (mentioned by Laqueur), and a few to the U.S. on the urging of Mrs. Roosevelt. Oppenheimer, whose mother had been one of the children saved, interviewed a limited, but diverse set of survivors.

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Using much documentary visual material, she looks at their backgrounds, their British experience, and their later lives. She is thereby able to document both diversity and similarity. The initial intent had been for the children to be reunited with their parents. Most of the parents, however, perished. Where reunifications did occur, it appears that at least some were difficult after prolonged separations. Because the sample is smaller and we get to know the individuals in their own words and learn much about them, this presentation, both as a film and as a book, is a great deal more successful than the other treatments reviewed here. We get context, continuity, individual variation, we can relate later lives to earlier experiences. Both the film and the book are informative and vivid, with strong emotional impact. They are a model of what such a report should be. Versant deals with nine memoirs by seven returnees, most no longer alive. A literary scholar, she draws her evidence from their texts, from what her subjects say about themselves. And what they tell is selective. For example, one of the women says little about her husband, yet he was the primary force in their return to Austria. With connections to the Viennese social democratic city administration, he was assured of a job. This set of five women and two men have virtually nothing in common. Their backgrounds, exile experiences, and the causes of their return all differ. The categories by which Versant seeks to analyze the information are imposed by her. The novelist and theater director, Ernst Lothar, had an established prewar career in Austria to which he could return. His American experience was frustrating, at least in part because here he was an unknown and because of the loss of language. Two of the women, both of whom I knew, were, in part, drawn back by their commitment to social democracy. The woman who went to Shanghai returned for lack of another choice. Versant mentions, but does not make much of the self-perception of the Austrians with regard to Nazism, antiSemitism, and the war. In contrast to West Germany, which rather quickly paid reparations to Jews and is one of Israel's strongest allies, Austria long denied responsibility. This denial was facilitated by Austria's having been declared by the Allies to have been Germany's "first victim." Only in recent years has any attempt at compensation been undertaken. On a personal level, Lothar's account, in which he is treated as if he had been away briefly, having a good time while the Austrians suffered, is not atypical. Sebald's Austerlitz, a novel, contains a complex mystery. The

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eponymous hero, an eccentric English scholar, gradually discovers the lost memory of his early childhood and the trauma of his adoption as a child saved by the Kindertransport. It may well introduce readers to a historical subject they had not encountered elsewhere. Transmuted history becomes myth, demonstrating the saving grace of memory. In Generation Exodus there is some pointing with pride to the often remarkable contributions made by members of this generation to their adopted countries and to numerous fields. They range from a U. S. secretary of state to diplomats in several countries, scholars, scientists, Nobel Prize winners, an (honorary) African chief and art expert, musicians and artists, generals and spies, financiers and writers. What they could become depended to some extent on the countries in which they lived, for example, whether Israel or the U.S, East or West Germany. Laqueur notes: "On the whole, they [the members of the cohort] did rather well, perhaps because they had to start from scratch, because there was no helping hand, no money, no connections, no safety net. For them it was a question of swimming or sinking." Without statistics it is, of course, difficult to know how well this generation actually did. Note, however, that we came of age, or into the labor market, in a period of remarkable post-war economic expansion and prosperity. In the U.S. immigrant men, although classified as enemy aliens, were drafted into the military and then sworn in as citizens before being shipped overseas. They were then able to take advantage of the GI Bill. This gave people like Kissinger an opportunity at higher education. For several years, the GI Bill also led to an enormous increase in college enrollments, providing jobs for recent Ph.D.s. For American-educated people it was a great deal easier to find jobs compared to their foreign-educated elders. (I suspect that there is another factor, one for which I have not seen any figures: namely, that middle-class people had a better chance for survival than the poor, even to be included in the Kindertransport.) For the generation of adults, migration often meant declassing and difficulty in adjustment. For their children this could mean regaining lost middle-class status in a different system of class and prestige. The first country of refuge often was only that. Those who escaped from Germany to Austria for the most part moved on. When the German conquests expanded, the lucky ones who had found

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refuge in one country or another went elsewhere; others perished. Whether refugees remained permanently where they landed, depended on economic and political conditions, family relations, and other factors. None stayed in Shanghai or Mauritius, the Indian Ocean island to which the British deported illegal immigrants into Palestine. Only a minority returned to Germany and Austria. Vienna's present-day Jewish community consists largely of people who fled Eastern European countries. Versant's cases are of interest in their very diversity. Several of these authors cite items in the lives of their sources that strike them as the unique experiences of individuals. Yet a number of these were recurrent events, known to those who were there. One example is the strip-searching of emigrants, women as well as men-including menstruating women-at German border crossings. Erika Bourguignon