A heart-stopping survivor story and brilliant historical investigation that offers unprecedented insight into daily life in the Third Reich and the Holocaust and the powers and pitfalls of memory.
At the outbreak of World War II, Marianne Strauss, the sheltered daughter of well-to-do German Jews, was an ordinary girl, concerned with studies, friends, and romance. Almost overnight she was transformed into a woman of spirit and defiance, a fighter who, when the Gestapo came for her family, seized the moment and went underground. On the run for two years, Marianne traveled across Nazi Germany without papers, aided by a remarkable resistance organization, previously unknown and unsung. Drawing on an astonishing cache of documents as well as interviews on three continents, historian Mark Roseman reconstructs Marianne's odyssey and reveals aspects of life in the Third Reich long hidden from view. As Roseman excavates the past, he also puts forward a new and sympathetic interpretation of the troubling discrepancies between fact and recollection that so often cloud survivors' accounts.
A detective story, a love story, a story of great courage and survival under the harshest conditions, A Past in Hiding is also a poignant investigation into the nature of memory, authenticity, and truth.
HPart detective story and part tragedy, this retracing of one Jewish woman's survival in Germany during the Holocaust is a riveting story told by a master. A professor of history at the University of Southampton in England, Roseman first learned about Marianne Strauss's experiences in the late 1980s. He contacted Strauss and interviewed her, but he was unsatisfied with the results, in part because of Strauss's reticence about her past. So after her death in 1996, he journeyed across the world to find those who knew her in order to flesh out Strauss's recollections. What comes through in his interviews and readings of Strauss's extraordinary letters and diaries is the desire of a strong, graceful woman to preserve normalcy in the face of despairDduring the early years of the war, Strauss attended teacher training and passed her licensing examsDand the mixed motivations of Germans who helped Jews like Strauss survive. He argues, for instance, that Strauss's well-off father used his connections, and his money, to persuade the counterintelligence unit of the German army to protect his family. Roseman builds the tension regarding the ultimate fate of Strauss's family with the skill of a novelist. And using extensive oral history, he retraces the private lives of Strauss and her friends and family as they attempted to grapple with painful decisions, most notably, Strauss's own decision to escape by herself as her family was being arrested. By comparing the accounts of people who knew Strauss with her own account, he also offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of how historians operate. Photos.