From Holocaust to Home
Had Hitler never come to power, my maternal grandfather Johann, a German Catholic, would never have been arrested and sent to Dachau for refusing to pay lip service to the Nazis. My father Alex, from a wealthy Jewish family in Poland, would never have been deported at fifteen, escaped from concentration camp just before the final death march and married my Catholic mother Tilly in her Bavarian hometown Straubing. And I would never have been born, the offspring who grew up in post-war Germany and emigrated to Canada on my own at twenty-one.
Memoir is generally defined as a collection of memories of personal experiences, and my memoir is certainly that. But it is also a collection of other people’s memories, as they were shared with me, and as they have helped to shape my life. These are their stories—and mine.
Alex was now wide awake. No, they wouldn't go to the trouble of bringing us to another camp, he thought. They would gas or shoot us.
He thought of the SS men that morning. What could make such people cry? Only their own defeat. Perhaps the war was lost already? Was another army on the way towards them?
Alex remembered the cattle trains that had carried his family away from home. He made his decision: "I won't be picked up tomorrow," he promised himself.
It was clear that he would not be able to escape from the camp. He would have to find a place where they would never expect a living soul to be---with the dead. After a moment, he shook his head. I can't hide among the dead. I won't be able to do it.
danny shay, reviewed in the United States on March 6, 2021 wrote:
"Equally heartbreaking and uplifting. A true testament to overcoming life’s horrors and finding within, the power to survive and thrive. Elke has beautifully woven her family story in a way that allows the reader into her heart, sharing the most intimate of moments both past and present."
- 5 out of 5 stars; "A must read."
"Once I started reading Identity it was hard to put down. This story of Holocaust survival is breathtakingly remarkable and inspirational. The telling of the follow-up effects of that survival and how it filters down to family is so well laid-out and deeply touching. What a great read!"
- 5 out of 5 stars; "A great read. Truly inspirational!"