In this debut book, a writer compiles letters from two Jewish parents—desperately trying to flee the Nazis in Europe—to their daughter.
Rosi Baczewski (nee Mosbacher) was born in Nuremberg, Germany, but left for England in 1939 as Nazi rule became increasingly intolerable for Jews, eventually making her way to the United States. Her parents—Hugo and Clemy Mosbacher—intended to reunite with her in New York after fleeing Germany for the Netherlands but were confronted with an entangled skein of bureaucratic challenges trying to secure the necessary documents. They never obtained a visa to enter the Netherlands but decided the deteriorating conditions in Germany made crossing the border illegally unavoidable. They were arrested in early 1940 in the Netherlands and spent two months in detention in Amsterdam, the first time they were separated since they married in 1911. They were released, but a few months later the Nazis invaded the country. Hugo and Clemy sent hundreds of letters to Rosi from 1940 to 1943, right up until they were seized by the Nazis in Amsterdam and ultimately sent to Auschwitz to die. Vasos, Baczewski’s daughter-in-law, assembled those letters in this moving collection, translated by various experts and coupled with a running historical commentary. The volume clearly chronicles not only the efforts of the Mosbachers to escape the Netherlands, but also the general plight of the Jews in Europe. Baczewski held onto those letters for 70 years before she gave them to the author. The correspondence covers a broad spectrum of issues, including the Mosbachers’ attempts to hack their way through a thicket of logistical issues that kept them stranded in the Netherlands and their heroic work to remain optimistic. The epistles are both historically edifying and profoundly moving—Hugo writes of the “immeasurable joy” he experienced each time he received a communication from his daughter. Still, both Hugo and Clemy were entirely aware of the precariousness of their situation and often expressed disconsolateness in response to their troubles. One letter ends with a sober aphorism: “What cannot be cured must be endured.” Vasos astutely situates the letters historically, ultimately producing a loving tribute to Hugo and Clemy as well as a treasure trove of historical insights and moral testimony.
A historically valuable and emotionally affecting collection of wartime letters.