The story of a Jewish family who watched in fear as a new neighbor rose to power.
In 1929, Feuchtwanger (Albert and Victoria, 2009, etc.), a former history professor in England, was 5 years old and living in an elegant Munich neighborhood with his parents when the family noticed that someone important had moved in across the street. He was Adolf Hitler, the leader of the rising Nazi Party, a man whom the young Feuchtwanger would sometimes pass in the street and could see in his windows. The Feuchtwangers were Jewish, and they felt consternation and confusion as the Nazis gained support, Hitler was named chancellor, and anti-Semitism flared into violence. With the assistance and encouragement of French journalist Scali, the author draws on his own recollections, a family memoir published in Germany, contemporary journals and newspapers, and the works of his uncle, writer Lion Feuchtwanger, to create a vivid, close-up picture of his experiences at school, where his teacher was an ardent Nazi; his increasing isolation from non-Jewish schoolmates; and the loss of his beloved nanny, forbidden to work for a Jewish family. Although friends and other family members left earlier, the Feuchtwangers were slower to acknowledge their vulnerability. “We’ve lived in Germany for more than four hundred years,” said the author’s father. “This madness will blow over like all the others that we Feuchtwangers have survived!” Still, he saw clearly that Hitler was a menace: “His friends are dangerous, ill-educated lunatics. But Hitler is the worst of the lot.” Although the author’s mother wanted to leave at the first sign of repression, his father claimed there was nowhere they could go: visas were hard to obtain, they spoke only German, and they would have to forfeit all their wealth and possessions. Once, he made a scouting expedition to Palestine, where relatives lived, but deemed the country unsuitable. But after Kristallnacht and Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, he finally acted, and the author, followed by his family, immigrated to England.
An intimate look at the horror wrought by Hitler.