A detailed, horrifying, and ultimately hopeful account of a young Jewish man’s efforts to avoid the Nazis in one of their principal cities.
Thankfully, Bert Lewyn, who died in 2016, had the good fortune to have family who cared about his remarkable story. Through interviews, travels, and archival research, his son and daughter-in-law, who worked as a researcher at CNN, compiled and edited this account (first self-published in 2001) of his wartime evasions during his teen years. In one of history’s darkest periods, the author suffered profoundly—separated from his parents, he never saw them again—and endured unspeakable deprivations. But he also benefitted from some courageous Berliners who hid him, fed him, and gave him hope. Lewyn was a technically skilled young man, proficient at metalworking and other machine skills, and these capacities enabled him not only to find occasional work—including for the Nazis themselves—but to escape from Nazi custody. He stayed with friends or slept in bombed-out buildings or in the countryside. But the Nazis eventually nabbed him, and the author provides a harrowing account of a prison break through an underground tunnel, an escape made possible by his knowledge of locks and keys. In addition to the grief he expresses for the loss of his parents, he tells about his quick marriage to a young mother. It was a marriage that helped them both survive but one that could not endure. The compiler and editor have done their best to enliven the narrative with verbatim dialogue and information derived from their journeys to key sites in Lewyn’s story. They write that they have endeavored to verify everything that’s still possible to verify, and their extensive backmatter and photographs of places and significant documents testify to their considerable efforts—and to their fidelity.
A grim and gripping story of survival in a most egregious time.