Son re­counts his fa­ther’s strug­gle in new Holo­caust memoir

The China Post - - ARTS - BY PAMELA SAMP­SON

Holo­caust mem­oirs pub­lished in the decades fol­low­ing the Nazi geno­cide of Europe’s Jews serve as grip­ping and his­tor­i­cally nec­es­sary ev­i­dence to unimag­in­able per­sonal suf­fer­ing. How­ever, few such mem­oirs are at once re­mark­able tes­ti­mony and re­mark­able literature.

But a re­cent book by Swedish au­thor and jour­nal­ist Go­ran Rosen­berg is both. In “A Brief Stop on the Road From Auschwitz,” Rosen­berg master­fully re­traces the strug­gle of his fa­ther to re­build a com­pletely shat­tered life af­ter sur­viv­ing Nazi slave la­bor and death camps, in­clud­ing the in­fa­mous Auschwitz.

The theme here is the sel­dom-told “sur­viv­ing the sur­vival,” that is, find­ing the will to live when ev­ery­one you loved and ev­ery­thing you cher­ished is gone.

David Rosen­berg, a Pol­ish Jew from Lodz who barely sur­vives the war, ar­rives in Swe­den in 1945 at age 24. He even­tu­ally set­tles in the bland, in­dus­trial town of Soder­talje in search of a place to re­place the sights, smells, sounds and peo­ple of a world that has dis­ap­peared.

David is in­de­fati­ga­ble in try­ing to build anew. He finds a job as a pipe fit­ter at a huge Sca­nia-Vabis truck fac­tory; he re­unites with Hala, from whom he was sep­a­rated on the se­lec­tion ramp at Auschwitz-Birke­nau; they marry and soon have a child. They want to name him Ger­shon, af­ter David’s fa­ther, who died in the Lodz ghetto. But friends say the name sounds too for­eign. How about Go­ran? It’s nice, Swedish-sound­ing, and will help the child blend in.

War Ends, But Mem­o­ries Haunts

While it’s a mir­a­cle that David lived to see free­dom, he never truly gets free of the past. World War II is over, and — though Europe is miss­ing two-thirds of its Jews — ev­ery­one else has moved on. David is out­wardly buoy­ant, but his in­ner life be­comes in­creas­ingly roiled and dark.

Swe­den has its own dark side. Snow­balls hit the kitchen win­dow as chil­dren shout “Jews!” Go­ran learns on the play­ground that a “mar­ble Jew” is some­one who cheats at the game. And his fa­ther sus­tains a con­cus­sion in a vi­o­lent fight at the truck fac­tory with a co-worker who in­sin­u­ates that he is a good-for-noth­ing Jew.

Not sur­pris­ingly, post-war Ger­many comes off far worse. The Ger­mans of­fer repa­ra­tions pay­ments to the vic­tims of Na­tional So­cial­ism, but shame­lessly make it all but im­pos­si­ble to qual­ify. A sur­vivor must prove he is 25 per­cent dis­abled, but David’s med­i­cal ex­am­iner — ap­pointed by Ger­many — looks him up and down and de­clares him only 20 per­cent di­min­ished.

In this haunting ex­plo­ration of the Auschwitz legacy — how it crushes long af­ter the gas cham­bers are shut down — Go­ran Rosen­berg has wrought, from the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion per­spec­tive, a book that over­whelms.


This photo pro­vided by Other Press shows the cover of the book, “A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz,” by au­thor Go­ran Rosen­berg.

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