Alex's Wake: The Tragic Voyage of the St. Louis to Flee Nazi Germany--and a Grandson's Journey of Love and Remembrance

Alex's Wake: The Tragic Voyage of the St. Louis to Flee Nazi Germany--and a Grandson's Journey of Love and Remembrance

3.0 2
by Martin Goldsmith
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Alex’s Wake is a tale of two parallel journeys undertaken seven decades apart. In the spring of 1939, Alex and Helmut Goldschmidt were two of more than 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany aboard the St. Louis, “the saddest ship afloat” (New York Times). Turned away from Cuba, the United States, and Canada, the St. Louis

Overview

Alex’s Wake is a tale of two parallel journeys undertaken seven decades apart. In the spring of 1939, Alex and Helmut Goldschmidt were two of more than 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany aboard the St. Louis, “the saddest ship afloat” (New York Times). Turned away from Cuba, the United States, and Canada, the St. Louis returned to Europe, a stark symbol of the world’s indifference to the gathering Holocaust. The Goldschmidts disembarked in France, where they spent the next three years in six different camps before being shipped to their deaths in Auschwitz.

In the spring of 2011, Alex’s grandson, Martin Goldsmith, followed in his relatives’ footsteps on a six-week journey of remembrance and hope, an irrational quest to reverse their fate and bring himself peace. Alex’s Wake movingly recounts the detailed histories of the two journeys, the witnesses Martin encounters for whom the events of the past are a vivid part of a living present, and an intimate, honest attempt to overcome a tormented family legacy.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Beautiful and brave…a chilling yet affirming account of human loss and recovery.”—David Maraniss, author of They Marched into Sunlight

“The opposite of love, Elie Wiesel has observed, is not hate but indifference. With Alex’s Wake, the author proves himself the least indifferent and, because of that, the most loving of men.”
—Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball

"There are six million Holocaust stories. All of them are the same in sadness and devastation. Each is different in circumstance and fear. Martin Goldsmith eloquently tells the story of his search for family in the rubble of memory and distance. It's a moving journey of finding the past and his own determined and compassionate present."—Susan Stamberg, NPR

"A new perspective on the Holocaust...powerful and evocative"—New York Journal of Books

“Underscores the immense moral challenges and failings of a nation that believes itself the leader of the free world…. A heartbreaking story of fear, frustration, anti-Semitism, and betrayal.”—Baltimore Sun

“A child of persecuted German Jews remembers his tormented, perished forebears—and makes peace with the country that hounded them to death…A well-researched, thorough reckoning of this shameful past.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Goldsmith ably personalizes the Holocaust, traveling the Auschwitz-bound arc of his grandfather and uncle, chillingly vivifying the collective camps’ otherwise monolithic millions.”—Providence Journal

"Profoundly moving"—Johns Hopkins Magazine

Blogcritics.org, 4/26/15
“[A] heartbreaking account…A harrowing tale…A book with a lesson for today.”

New York Daily News, 4/15/15
“With painstaking detail and a historical biography, Goldsmith digs deep into his own history and the psyche of Eastern European Jewry.”

BookTrib.com, 4/15/15
“[An] intensely personal story.”

Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews, February/March 2016
“Goldsmith’s well-written and well-researched account is personal and poignant.”

Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-13
A child of persecuted German Jews remembers his tormented, perished forebears—and makes peace with the country that hounded them to death. Building on his previous memoir, The Inextinguishable Symphony (2000), which told the story of his musician parents' meeting while members of the all-Jewish Kulturbund in Nazi Germany, classical music host Goldsmith delves into the archives and memory to uncover the plight of his grandfather Alex Goldschmidt and uncle Klaus Helmut, who were refugees aboard the ill-fated St. Louis bound for Cuba in May 1939. Rejected by Cuba, however, and in turn by the United States and Canada, the ocean liner, which contained more than 900 Jewish refugees, was doomed to return to Nazi Germany if not for the humanitarian intersession of Morris Troper, who managed to find succor for the passengers by dividing them among Belgium, Holland, England and France. Alex and his younger son were sent to France, soon to be occupied, and passed from camp to camp, finally hauled off to Auschwitz, where they perished in 1942. Hauntingly, Alex sent increasingly frantic messages to his older son, who had found refuge in the United States, and concluded, "If you don't move heaven and earth to help us, that's up to you, it will be on your conscience." That dire warning opened up an understanding to the silence around their past enforced by the author's parents as he was growing up. Taking clues from cities jotted down on the victims' passports, the author and his wife resolved to return to Germany and France, tracking Alex's progress from his family roots in Lower Saxony; to his move to Oldenburg, where he set up a prosperous clothing store with his wife and children; to his final despairing trajectory across Europe. In their emotionally wrenching trek, Goldsmith managed to achieve some sense of closure when the current owners of Alex's grand house unveiled a commemorative plaque. A well-researched, thorough reckoning of this shameful past.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306823237
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
04/08/2014
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
693,443
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

Martin Goldsmith is currently host and classical music programmer for “Symphony Hall” on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and hosted NPR’s Performance Today from 1989 to 1999. He is the author of The Inextinguishable Symphony and lives in Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Alex's Wake: A Voyage of Betrayal and a Journey of Remembrance 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
ISLMA1988 More than 1 year ago
Martin Goldsmith has written a moving tribute to his ancestors as he and his wife follow the path through Europe that his grandfather,Alex, and his uncle,Helmut, were forced to take by the Nazis in the days before they finally became statistics in Auschwitz. Along the way he describes what must have been their journey while he experiences anguish, joy and a multitude of other emotions as he traces their path through his own journeys in 2011. Emotionally it is a difficult journey for the author and for his readers, but it is a path he needed to follow and he allows the reader to experience it with him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dan rodrix show of 4/28- an interview w Martin Goldsmith re his book "Alex's (sp? Wake"- about his relatives voyage on the St. Louis which was refused entry in the u.s. and thence to death in auschwitz: As a war protester, I am still careful about standing in judgement- and certainly would be careful re Martin and his story- which we are glad to have made public. At the same time-did Martin and dan realize that there is a strong anti war movement active today- in which participation would best honor these lost relatives? I have criticized dan often for his "pablumic" approach to issues- should i do so again? There are people in jail for protesting war! I mean it's nice to tell the stories- but- how about a peep re ending this bs? Martin- as a classical music person, i will b very careful to criticize. But...you talk of the family house, now with a plaque, and a sort of wake held there in- to which i say- not enough". Germans are not coming anywhere near "doing their best" to deal with their criminal history- nor is the us re slavery and Indian genocide.