Maroscher (Short Stories: German 1.1 Reader, 2011, etc.) recounts the challenges of being a young boy in Europe during World War II and growing up in America in its aftermath.
The author’s parents met in Romania and wed in 1939, the same year that Germany invaded Poland, igniting World War II. He was born in 1943, after his brother, Gunter. His father—a Lutheran minister, schoolteacher, and “reluctant warrior”—was called to join the Hungarian army to fight the encroaching Russian forces. The Russians’ reputation for brutality was well- known, so Maroscher’s mother decided to flee with her two boys before traveling to her sister’s house in Weimar, Germany. She took them aboard a train that was evacuating wounded German soldiers, and she braved numerous hardships, including the constant threat of air raids. They stopped in Herzogenburg, Austria, and lived at a refugee camp, formerly a monastery. The conditions were cramped and deplorable, and food was so scarce the author’s mother had to threaten the director with a gun to have access to it; her boys were all but starving. They finally made it to Weimar and lived under American occupation when the war ended, which was relatively tolerable, despite the family’s reasonable suspicions of the conquering force. Things took a turn for the worse, though, when the Americans were replaced by Russians. Maroscher’s father had been gone for two years by that point, and his mother secretly sent a note to their old home, hoping to discover whether he was alive. The family was eventually reunited and, in the face of economic hardship, immigrated to the United States. Over the years, the family gradually realized the American dream, improving their lot and achieving impressive social mobility. Maroscher’s research, while reliant upon informal interviews with family members, is impressively meticulous and thorough. The author controls the narrative like an orchestra conductor, allowing each player’s contribution to have its part within the piece as a whole. Also, he’s refreshingly candid about his own life, particularly his sometimes-troubled teenage years, and he writes with wit and compassion. The memoir’s length and detail may be challenging for readers who aren’t familiar with the Maroscher family, but students of history will be engaged by this unusual story of World War II survivors.
A memoir that offers a rare, underrepresented perspective on World War II.