Media & Reviews

Media

Holocaust through the eyes of a refugee in SACape Argus – May 20, 2012

Family's Holocaust-era letters to be translatedThe Jewish Chronicle – January 11, 2011


Reviews

"As German and Austrians Jews were propelled across the globe by the force of Nazi persecution, bonds of family and friendship were sustained as long as possible by the fragile threads of correspondence. 'People,' as a contemporary observer put it, 'were turned into letters.' Now, equipped with the empathy, insight, and writerliness that is her hallmark, Shirli Gilbert is reversing the process, recovering lives and fates, voices and identities from a remarkable treasure trove of hidden family correspondence. A wonderful and enlightening book, not least about survivors’ postwar trajectories in apartheid South Africa." – Mark Roseman, director of Borns Jewish Studies Program, Indiana University

"Drawing on a recently discovered treasure trove of correspondence from the World War II era and beyond, Shirli Gilbert has written a psychologically nuanced account of a German Jew who fled Nazism and found refuge in South Africa. Her finely crafted book illuminates not only the stresses and strains of flight and resettlement in the 1930s and 1940s but also the inability of refugees from Nazism to ever escape the trauma of those years." – Todd M. Endelman, professor emeritus of history and Judaic studies, University of Michigan

"What did it mean to pick up the threads of old friendships after the Holocaust? To write to a former Nazi who had served in the war when your parents had been deported and to enlist his help in tracing what happened to their property and possessions? In this beautifully realized book, Shirli Gilbert recovers and brings to light the whole web of scattered relationships that Rudolf Schwab perpetuated through letters, a family diaspora, and a series of ties back to postwar West Germany. These invisible correspondents in turn shaped what kind of father and South African he became. In this cameo of a family history, the great forces of racism, emigration, and the Holocaust take on an intimate—almost sepia tone—and the protagonists' need to find each other does nothing to lessen the sense of a whole world that had been ripped apart. This is history writing of the highest order." – Nicholas Stargardt, professor of modern European history, Magdalen College

"Beautifully written and deeply researched, Gilbert’s empathetic but unblinking investigation of this transnational story suggests that the belated and well-intentioned inclusion of refugees as ‘Holocaust survivors’ can obscure their particular ambivalent and traumatic experiences." – Atina Grossmann, author of Jews, Germans, and Allies: Close Encounters in Occupied Germany

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From Things Lost book cover

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