New books

New books April 2020

Here is a selection of books about the Holocaust and other related themes, due to be published in April in the UK. Like the rest of the world, the publishing industry is currently facing massive disruption due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, so it is possible that some of these books won’t be available from their stated publication date. If you are interested in any of them, though, I would suggest checking with the publishers on likely release dates. They would appreciate your interest and support at the moment, as would independent bookstores.

Franci’s War: The incredible true story of one woman’s survival of the Holocaust by Franci Rabinek Epstein

From the publisher:

Entering Terezin, a Nazi concentration camp, Franci was expected to die. She refused.

In the summer of 1942, twenty-two-year-old Franci Rabinek – designated a Jew by the Nazi racial laws – arrived at Terezin, a concentration camp and ghetto forty miles north of her home in Prague. It would be the beginning of her three-year journey from Terezin to the Czech family camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, to the slave labour camps in Hamburg, and finally to Bergen Belsen.

Franci, a spirited and glamorous young woman, was known among her fellow inmates as the Prague dress designer. Having endured the transportation of her parents, she never forgot her mother’s parting words:

‘Your only duty to us is to stay alive’.

During an Auschwitz selection, Franci would spontaneously lie to Nazi officer Dr Josef Mengele, and claim to be an electrician.

A split-second decision that would go on to endanger – and save – her life.

Unpublished for 50 years, Franci’s War is an astonishing account of one woman’s attempt to survive those dark years. Heartbreaking, candid, and sometimes unbearably funny, she gives voice to the women prisoners in her tight-knit circle of friends. Her testimony sheds new light on the alliances, love affairs, and sexual barter that took place during the Holocaust, offering a compelling insight into the resilience and courage of ordinary people in an extraordinary situation.

Above all, Franci’s War asks us to explore what it takes to survive, and what it means to truly live.

1939: A People’s History by Frederick Taylor

From the publisher:

In the autumn of 1938, Europe believed in the promise of peace. Still reeling from the ravages of the Great War, its people were desperate to rebuild their lives in a newly safe and stable era. But only a year later, the fateful decisions of just a few men had again led Europe to war, a war that would have a profound and lasting impact on millions.

Bestselling historian Frederick Taylor focuses on the day-to-day experiences of British and German people trapped in this disastrous chain of events and not, as is so often the case, the elite. Drawn from original sources, their voices, concerns and experiences reveal a marked disconnect between government and people; few ordinary citizens in either country wanted war.

1939: A People’s History is not only a vivid account of that turbulent year but also an interrogation of our capacity to go to war again. In many ways it serves as a warning; an opportunity for us to learn from our history and a reminder that we must never take peace for granted.

Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna by Edith Sheffer

From the publisher:

In 1930s and 1940s Vienna, child psychiatrist Hans Asperger sought to define autism as a diagnostic category, treating those children he deemed capable of participating fully in society. Depicted as compassionate and devoted, Asperger was in fact deeply influenced by Nazi psychiatry. Although he offered care to children he deemed promising, he prescribed harsh institutionalisation and even transfer to one of the Reich’s killing centres, for children with greater disabilities.

With sensitivity and passion, Edith Sheffer reveals the heart-breaking voices and experiences of many of these children, whilst illuminating a Nazi regime obsessed with sorting the population into categories, cataloguing people by race, heredity, politics, religion, sexuality, criminality and biological defects-labels that became the basis of either rehabilitation or persecution and extermination.

Fritz Bauer: The Jewish Prosecutor Who Brought Eichmann and Auschwitz to Trial by Ronen Steinke Fritz Bauer: The Jewish Prosecutor Who Brought ...

From the publisher:

German Jewish judge and prosecutor Fritz Bauer (1903-1968) played a key role in the arrest of Adolf Eichmann and the initiation of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials. Author Ronen Steinke tells this remarkable story while sensitively exploring the many contributions Bauer made to the postwar German justice system. As it sheds light on Bauer’s Jewish identity and the role it played in these trials and his later career, Steinke’s deft narrative contributes to the larger story of Jewishness in postwar Germany. Examining latent antisemitism during this period as well as Jewish responses to renewed German cultural identity and politics, Steinke also explores Bauer’s personal and family life and private struggles, including his participation in debates against the criminalization of homosexuality-a fact that only came to light after his death in 1968. This new biography reveals how one individual’s determination, religion, and dedication to the rule of law formed an important foundation for German post war society.

The Good Assassin: Mossad’s Hunt for the Butcher of Latvia by Stephan Talty

The Good Assassin: How a Mossad Agent and a Band of Survivors ...

From the publisher:

Before the Second World War, Herbert Cukurs was a world-famous aviator and a hero in his hometown of Riga, Latvia. During the war he joined the SS, led a militia and was responsible for the genocide of 30,000 Latvian Jews. By the 1960s the man who became known as the Butcher of Riga was living in South America. And Mossad were coming for him. In 1965, a statute of limitations on Nazi war crimes threatened to expire and Germany was seeking to reintegrate concentration camp commanders, pogrom leaders and executioners. The global hunt for Nazi criminals was stepped up, and a target was painted on the back of Cukurs. Yaakov Meidad, the Mossad agent who had kidnapped Adolf Eichmann three years earlier, was called into action once more, leading to an astonishing undercover operation that saw Meidad travel to Brazil in an elaborate disguise before befriending Cukurs and earning his trust. Uncovering a little-known part of Holocaust history and telling the story of one of the most daring operations in the history of the Israeli intelligence community, The Good Assassin is a thrilling story of a forgotten monster and the twenty-year quest to bring him to justice, told by a master of narrative non-fiction.

Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table by Boris Fishman

SAVAGE FEAST: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner ...

From the publisher:

The acclaimed author of A Replacement Life shifts between heartbreak and humor in this gorgeously told, recipe-filled memoir. A family story, an immigrant story, a love story, and an epic meal, Savage Feast explores the challenges of navigating two cultures from an unusual angle. 

A revealing personal story and family memoir told through meals and recipes, Savage Feast begins with Boris’s childhood in Soviet Belarus, where good food was often worth more than money. He describes the unlikely dish that brought his parents together and how years of Holocaust hunger left his grandmother so obsessed with bread that she always kept five loaves on hand. She was the stove magician and Boris’ grandfather the master black marketer who supplied her, evading at least one firing squad on the way. These spoils kept Boris’ family-Jews who lived under threat of discrimination and violence-provided-for and protected.

Despite its abundance, food becomes even more important in America, which Boris’ family reaches after an emigration through Vienna and Rome filled with marvel, despair, and bratwurst. How to remain connected to one’s roots while shedding their trauma? The ambrosial cooking of Oksana, Boris’s grandfather’s Ukrainian home aide, begins to show him the way. His quest takes him to a farm in the Hudson River Valley, the kitchen of a Russian restaurant on the Lower East Side, a Native American reservation in South Dakota, and back to Oksana’s kitchen in Brooklyn. His relationships with women-troubled, he realizes, for reasons that go back many generations-unfold concurrently, finally bringing him, after many misadventures, to an American soulmate.

Savage Feast is Boris’ tribute to food, that secret passage to an intimate conversation about identity, belonging, family, displacement, and love.

Growing Up Below Sea Level: A Kibbutz Childhood by Rachel Biale Growing Up Below Sea Level: A Kibbutz Childhood eBook ...

From the publisher:

This beautifully written memoir is composed of linked stories about growing up on a kibbutz in Israel in the 1950s and 60s, when children spent most of their time, from birth on, in a Children’s House. This memoir starts with a Prologue drawn from the diaries of Rachel Biale’s mother and the letters her parents exchanged while her father served in the British army. With excerpts from these documents, she describes how the long trials and tribulations that encompassed her parents dangerous escape from Eastern Europe to Israel – fleeing from the Nazis from Prague in 1939, five years of dangerous sea voyages, and long internments in British refugee camps. Throughout these ordeals, her parents socialist and Zionist values sustained them and eventually brought them to their kibbutz. The middle and main section of the memoir is devoted to Rachel’s growing up as a kibbutz child. While Rachel’s parents soon realized that no community can live up to its utopian ideals, Rachel’s youth on kibbutz was a robust and buoyant one. Rachel pens 24 beautifully written and engaging stories about her kibbutz childhood — from earliest memories at age three as part of a children’s society, to her army service at age twenty. The stories focus on the world of children, but also offer a window into the lives of the adult kibbutz members, including Holocaust survivors. The book ends with a Postscript-as Rachel revisits her kibbutz and updates the stories of her childhood companions.

1 comment on “New books April 2020

  1. Stephanie

    This such an amazing list! Thank you! I am actually going to order some of them of this list!


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