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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

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by Martin Goldsmith
 

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

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:
9780306823718
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
03/31/2015
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
536,707
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author


Martin Goldsmith is a host and classical music programmer for Symphony Hall on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and previously hosted NPR's daily classical music program, Performance Today, from 1989 to 1999. He is the author of The Inextinguishable Symphony and lives in Maryland.

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