Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Review: We Were Europeans

We were Europeans: A Personal History of a Turbulent Century, Werner Loval, Gefen Publishing 2010, ISBN 978-9652295224

Werner Loval was only a boy when his parents realized they had to leave Nazi Germany. They were middle-class, successful Germans as far as they were concerned, until suddenly they found themselves not Jewish Bavarians but simply hated Jews. The family escaped first to Latin America, then to the US and eventually Loval made his home in Israel. After a long series of successful careers, he has now chosen to publish this critical memoir.
Loval doesn't just chronicle his own memories. He dug and travelled and called and cajoled, and was able to document photographs, identities, letters, diaries, and more, all of his own immediate family from the late 19th throughout the 20th century. He documents their identities as Jews and Germans, their business activities and personal relationships. He also adds individual separated pages on historical events tied to the times which affected other families during the Holocaust (such as ship-torpedoings and un-used refugee opportunities) to give a broader sense of the experiences of Jewish refugee families of the time. Still, while wide-scoped, this remains a very personal narrative.
I highly recommend this volume for any Holocaust, European, Jewish, or 20th Century library collection. I would add that this book is probably more suited to a group-library (school, public, or private) than a private individual's one, unless you have a strong interest in Holocaust documentation. In that case, this is a critical addition; an eyewitness account or in fact a group of them, well-placed in historical context and experience.

No comments: