From Weimer to Buchenwald – Survival in Nazi Germany
It was by choice that I read Those Who Save Us during the third week of June 2018. The constant barrage of stories about South American children taken from the arms of their parents at our southern border haunted me. They reminded me of the stories I heard as a child from neighbors. I remembered the stories of the men in my community who liberated areas of Germany from Buchenwald to the crematoria in Auschwitz in the1940’s.
After hosting foreign exchange students from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala, my heart ached for understanding. I began reading this award-winning book to find answers to my overwhelming sadness. Why did my heart bring up visions of Nazi Germany as I watched American news coverage of the immigration crisis?
The story evolves from the eyes of Anna as she shelters a Jewish doctor in a servant stairway in her home in Weimar. Anna’s viewpoint is raw and sometimes explicit as she falls in love with the fugitive, Max. The biggest threat to them is her father, an SS officer intent on adhering to the mandates of the Fatherland. Anna becomes pregnant with Max’s child, which is the beginning of her journey of survival while protecting her infant daughter. While she is out of the house one day, her father discovers Max and sends him off to Buchenwald.
Anna and Trudy’s Stories Are So Different in Perception
Pregnant, and afraid, Anna escapes to the local bakery. It is there she perfects the art of bread making from the owner, a staunch supporter of the resistance. While there the Obersturfuhrer from Buchenwald discovers her and the “Mischling” (half-breed) daughter hiding. He quickly takes Anna for his pleasure when the desire overpowers him.
Trudy, Anna’s daughter and professor of German history in Minnesota came to New Heidelberg, Minnesota with her mother and new American stepfather after the war. Her memories and awakening in the present highlight the differences in perception of what life was like for German women during the Third Reich compared to her mother’s memories. The two viewpoints of a mother in the past and daughter in the present give a depth of understanding to awaken even the most hardened of souls.
Are we so willing to forget the lessons of Buchenwald and Auschwitz? Will we turn a blind eye to the plight of people we’ve never met?
From the Book
Trudy’s lecture to students more interested in their next activity than absorbing the German history lesson reminds us of how quickly a democracy can deteriorate:
We’re discussing the fact that people once died trying to fight a regime of monstrous tyranny. They gave their lives for the freedom you so blithely take for granted.
Are we turning a blind eye like so many Germans did? Trudy’s Interview question with Mrs. Kluge from Munich: “What was happening to the Jews did not concern you?”
“Ja, it held no meaning for me personally. I did not know any Jews.”
The Description of Jenna Blum’s Book:
For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer refused to talk about her life in Germany just beyond the gates of Buchenwald during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.
Trudy is driven by the guilt of her heritage. She is now a professor of German history in Minnesota and begins investigating the past. Finally, she unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life.
Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.
About Jenna Blum:
Jenna Blum is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of novels THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS and the novella “The Lucky One” in the postwar collection GRAND CENTRAL.She is also one of Oprah’s Top 30 Women Writers. Jenna’s third novel, THE LOST FAMILY, will be published June 5, 2018 by Harper Collins.
Her debut novel THOSE WHO SAVE US was a New York Times bestseller; a Boston Globe bestseller; the winner of the 2005 Ribalow Prize, adjudged by Elie Wiesel; a BORDERS book club pick, a perennial book club favorite, and the # 1 bestselling novel in Holland.
Jenna’s second novel, THE STORMCHASERS, is a Boston Globe bestseller, a Target Emerging Authors pick, and a bestseller in Holland and France. Her newest work, her novella “The Lucky One,” was published in anthology GRAND CENTRAL, published by Penguin in July 2014. Jenna’s third novel, THE LOST FAMILY, is forthcoming from Harper Collins in 2018, and Jenna is currently working on her fourth novel.
Jenna has been writing since she was 4 and professionally since she was 16. She won Seventeen Magazine’s National Fiction Contest with her short story “The Legacy of Frank Finklestein.”
Ms Blum is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A., English) and Boston University (M.A., Creative Writing); she taught creative writing and journalism for Boston University for five years, was editor of AGNI literary magazine, and has taught fiction for 20 years for Boston’s Grub Street Writers, where she currently teaches master novel workshops.
In addition, Jenna worked for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. Dividing her time between Boston and the Midwest, Jenna has written the screenplay for THOSE WHO SAVE US and is writing her fourth novel. Jenna loves to visit book clubs in person, by phone, and via Skype.