Scheyer (1886-1949), arts editor of Vienna’s Neues Wiener Tagblatt until his expulsion in 1938, describes his desperate struggle to remain free after the Anschluss.
The book, a carbon copy kept by the translator’s grandmother, Scheyer’s wife, was discovered in an attic in the home of Scheyer’s stepson and is now available, unedited as witness to the kindness and cruelty of the time. The author began writing the book in 1943 in the family’s hiding place in the Dordogne and completed it in 1945. In 1938, moving to France was the way to avoid the Germans’ strict regulations for Jews. Scheyer, his wife, Grete, and their faithful Czech companion, Slava, faced and outran constant danger. The writing is fraught with the emotional turmoil of trying to stay a step ahead of the Nazis. Scheyer’s descriptions, after the fact, of the inability to relax, the constant fear that someone would denounce them, knowing a knock on the door could be the end, and even their inability to come out of hiding after liberation are gripping. His constant question—“how could it all have happened?”—hovers over all. Even at first, while he was in Paris to buy exit visas, he speaks of the desperation and pain of being a refugee living on charity. He tells of the miracles, as well, and muses on the fates of his friends to show how close we become in adversity. Suffering a wide range of experiences—from passeurs who deserted them to contacts with the resistance—they finally found angels in the Rispal family, who led them to safety in a convent. Scheyer’s stepson destroyed the original copy of the book due to its intense anti-German sentiments; thankfully, the work survived.
A well-written book full of desperate hope, intense fear, and a demand for vigilance against the mentality of hate.