The Holocaust remains one of the most regretful moments in the history of mankind. The Final Solution, engineered by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government, resulted in the deaths of over six millions Jewish men, women and children. The many concentration camps became factories of genocide and symbols of the Third Reich’s relentless efforts to remove all Jewish citizens from Germany and the occupied territories of the Reich. As Hitler made his rise to power, many Jews fled Germany fearing the worst under the rule of the tyrannical dictator from neighboring Austria. Others were forced to seek refuge in Germany and survive in any way possible. But still there were other Jews who found help among non-Jewish Germans and were able to hide themselves right in Berlin, under the eyes and ears of the N.S.D.A.P.
This is the story of seven men and women who found refuge and protection in Berlin during the war and how they lived to tell their tales. They’re now deceased, but before their deaths, Barbara Lovenheim conducted interviews with them, allowing them to recount their incredible stories of fear, survival and eventual happiness after moving on with life and building lives outside of Germany. Their stories truly exemplify what it means to hide in plain sight. Through each of them, we are able to see the resiliency of the human spirit and are reminded that even in the worst of times, there will always be those of us who refuse to give in to evil and truly understand what humanism really means.
As we are introduced to the characters, the Nazis begin to step up the effort to remove all Jews from the Fatherland. Reaching out to friends and acquaintances, the men and women in this book, Erich Arndt, Ruth Arndt, Charlotte Lewinsky, Ellen Lewinsky and Bruno Gumpel, manage to survive the Final Solution through determination, luck and in some cases, superb methods of deception. Faced with starvation, sickness and in most cases, desperation, their will to survive is inspiring and heartbreaking. But as we make our way through the book, we see trust is also a large factor and underscores every move that each of them make to stay alive. Enemies appear with smiles and looks are sometimes very deceiving. And what we learn painfully in the book is that in some cases, not even fellow Jews could be completely trusted making each word spoken and each offer accepted, a matter of life and death.
Their stories are the main objective of the book, but a sub-story also exist in the form of the many non-Jewish Germans who risked their lives and well-being to save their Jewish friends and others threatened with death at a concentration camp. Oskar Schindler’s story is well-known and he was immortalized by Liam Neeson in the classic ‘Schindler’s List’. But throughout the war and even in Berlin as we see here, many ordinary German citizens took great strides to protect Jews from extermination at the hands of the Gestapo. And following the war, the formerly persecuted Jews made it clear to Allied forces that their saviors were to be protected and left alone. Others we know turned a blind eye to the crimes of the Third Reich and some even turned in Jews to the authorities. But the efforts of the upstanding citizens serves as an example of the good that humans can do even in the face of overwhelming death, destruction and despair.
There are many stories about the Holocaust from writers such as the late Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel and Rena Kornreich Gelissen. The stories of these seven survivors stands among the greats as a historical record of a horrific time in world history. And although more than 70 years have passed since the Allied victory over the Axis powers, the horror and pain of the survivors of the Final Solution stay fresh in our minds as a reminder of why it’s important to never forget our history.