This is a moving and beautiful memoir. Beautiful despite the awfulness of the events it describes.

The author was born Georg Klaar, the only son of Jewish parents in Vienna before WWII. This is his personal account of what happened to his family. It stands out, for me, because it is about the personal impacts of the terrible policies pursued by the Nazis. One should never get enough of accounts of the Nazi genocide but this book applies a perspective perhaps not heard loudly enough – the perspective of ordinary people finding their whole lives terrorised by political forces. The way in which the author’s parents were trapped by the anti-Jewish policies and the inexorable, relentless way they were driven to Auschwitz is haunting to read and, despite all the ink spilled on the subject of WWII, shocking.

The author must have been some linguist – the style is very engaging and humorous at times, written in what must have been his third or fourth language.

There are many, many telling vignettes – the nastiness of the family’s former servant, who blackmailed them into giving her their possessions; the slow bureaucracy of the Irish and French governments; and the kindness and acts of solidarity of civilians in several Nazified countries.

The author describes the enthusiasm of Austria for anti-Semitism. He observes that Germany was good at Nazism but not so good at anti-Semitism, whereas Austria as bad at the former and very good at the latter.

It is a book well worth reading in the troubled times we live through today. Demonising whole races and religions is, we should daily remind ourselves, not a good idea.

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