EXODUS '43 by John Goldsmith

EXODUS '43

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Danish resistance to the Nazis and the saving of Denmark's Jews--in a well-meaning, competent, but awfully sentimental and contrived two-family mini-saga. In 1939 Copenhagen, young Rosa Abrahamsen, daughter of shipowner Isak, is in love with young soldier Valdemar Larsen, son of shipowner Niels--who hates the Abrahamsens for having long ago stolen part of his business. It's a Romeo-and-Juliet romance, then; but the lovers do marry--while Valdemar (now in military intelligence) tries to convince his countrymen of the real Nazi-invasion threat. . . and Rosa's dying grandfather tries to convince the family of the coming danger to Danish Jews (who are contentedly assimilated). German occupation does come, of course; and Valdemar, furious over the general Danish acquiescence (including his own father's), disappears--via plastic surgery--into the underground resistance, leaving behind Rosa and baby Johannes. Meanwhile, Valdemar's sister consorts with German officers; Rosa helps her bookseller uncle Abel (a homosexual) to print an underground newspaper; and Rosa's father Isak refuses to believe that any harm cart come to Denmark's Jews. But in 1943 the worst does indeed happen: because of internecine Danish-government feuding, it becomes expedient to institute a Danish version of the Final Solution. And when the Danes hear of this, there's ""a great stretching and blinking and waking through the nation, thousands of individual acts of compassion and courage adding up to a rebirth of faith, a rediscovery of principle."" Valdemar's father and sister switch from collaboration to heroism; the Larsen house becomes a major hiding-place for Jews; Isak rediscovers his Jewish identity. Rosa leads Jews to the Swedish escape route (sometimes against their will), is herself captured, and, in the concentration-camp, has a tender deathbed reunion with her formerly aloof Grandmamma. And, except for Uncle Abel (who commits suicide), there are happy endings all around when Rosa and Valdemar (also captured) reunite in 1945. Strong historical material, with assorted vignettes of Danish heroism; but Goldsmith's journeyman fictionalization--often melodramatic or preachy, unfocused, rife with distracting Britishisms--never rises to the occasion.

Pub Date: April 9th, 1982
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan