The Wobsers are prosperous, churchgoing, patriotic Germans living in a small East Prussian town. When Hitler seizes power, their comfortable family life is destroyed by a horrifying Nazi regime. Baptized and confirmed as Lutherans, they are told they are Jewish, a past always respected but rarely considered, and a distinction that makes a life-and-death difference. Suddenly, it is no longer a matter of faith or religion; their lives are defined by race. It is a matter of bloodlines. And, in Nazi Germany, they have the wrong blood.
Written by a second generation Holocaust survivor, this compelling, heart wrenching story will touch every emotion.
If you read the blurb, then this book does exactly what it says on the tin- a look into history with a very personal touch. The story is mainly an account from Ralph Webster’s father who recalls his life from an early age until the time he set sail for America after the war. Peppered in between Ralph’s father’s story are chapters by Ralph which gives us a more recent and overall look into who his father was as a man and how as a family they continue to deal with difficult situations. But this book is not only about the life of Ralph’s father Gerhard (or Jerry- his name when he became a naturalized British citizen), it’s about the whole family- sisters, aunts, uncles, in-laws, cousins and nieces and nephews. A story of how quickly and unexpectedly lives can change, a story of surviving in a world that suddenly gave Jewish people a ridiculous obstacle course which many did not pass by holding on to their lives. When I say ridiculous, then I mean ridiculous- as in, how in the hell was this allowed to even happen in the first place? What’s wrong with people? How do mad men get into positions that affect human lives? Makes me spitting mad!
It goes without saying that because we’re dealing with one of the most horrid events in human history, this story of a life, of many lives, will pull on your heartstrings. There’s nostalgia, melancholy and sadness, but also survival, hope and happiness. I became so invested in the journey of the whole family- mainly because some really loving detail was added to the story. What really makes me despise the historic events is how utterly unfair it all was. But you see… What shines through the tale by Gerhard and Ralph, and what makes me respect this family, is how they narrate the events, how they continue to address the issue in the most graceful way. There is no hateful comments in this story. Just an account of what they endured. And that! That is a show of civility and strength.
My rating: 4****. It took me a while to get used to the story-telling structure and there was a bit of repetition of facts which is duly noted by Gerhard! 🙂 I guess it gives this authentic feeling to someone recalling the past. I feel horrible for nitpicking, but… what really matters is the message I and any reader can take away from this book- live, and let others live. Such is life- a smile in one eye, and a tear in the other. How we react is what defines us.
*I received this book directly from Ralph Webster in exchange for a review*