WHEN TIME RAN OUT by Frederic Zeller


Coming of Age in the Third Reich
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An account of sculptor Zeller's early years in Nazi Germany and his subsequent escape to Holland in 1939. Zeller's accumulation of childhood detail often does not rise above a portrait of an average Jewish boy's life in Berlin during Hitler's ascent. Frederic's mother is over-protective: his father tells his son to hit back when attacked. Yet some incidents stand out: Frederic goes to a Nazi propaganda film and finds himself crazily rooting for the blond Hitler youth; he writes that he never wants to be in business or a landlord, to avoid classification as one of "those exploiter Jews," but he insists on a bar-mitzvah because "they said he was a Jew." Detailing the increasing tensions of life in Berlin. the book gathers momentum and emotion. There is a terrifying description of Kristallnacht as seen by adolescent eyes: watching a mob break Jewish storekeepers' windows, helping a neighbor to clean up as the man bleeds and cries. By this time, the family is trapped and unable to get work or foreign visas; the parents' chief preoccupation is to send their children to safety. Frederic, adventurous and independent, escapes at 14 to Holland. The trip by train through Germany and across the border with his cousin and a few other Jewish children is the book's most riveting and emotionally wrenching section. As he watches his mother crying at the station, "I turned to ice. coldly angry with her for having her heart torn out." Despite the rather slow start, Zeller's memoir ends in bittersweet triumph: Frederic and his sister survive the war; his parents do not. What remains clear is that every Jewish family has a war story; this one, too, deserves not to be forgotten.

ISBN: 932966-89-6
Publisher: Permanent Press
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