Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed

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Overview

   On a pier in Marseille in 1942, with desperate refugees pressing to board one of the last ships to escape France before the Nazis choked off its ports, an 18-year-old German Jewish girl was pried from the arms of the Catholic Frenchman she loved and promised to marry. As the Lipari carried Janine and her family to Casablanca on the first leg of a perilous journey to safety in Cuba, she would read through her tears the farewell letter that Roland had slipped in her pocket: “Whatever the length of...

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Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed

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Overview

   On a pier in Marseille in 1942, with desperate refugees pressing to board one of the last ships to escape France before the Nazis choked off its ports, an 18-year-old German Jewish girl was pried from the arms of the Catholic Frenchman she loved and promised to marry. As the Lipari carried Janine and her family to Casablanca on the first leg of a perilous journey to safety in Cuba, she would read through her tears the farewell letter that Roland had slipped in her pocket: “Whatever the length of our separation, our love will survive it, because it depends on us alone. I give you my vow that whatever the time we must wait, you will be my wife. Never forget, never doubt.” 
   Five years later – her fierce desire to reunite with Roland first obstructed by war and then, in secret, by her father and brother – Janine would build a new life in New York with a dynamic American husband. That his obsession with Ayn Rand tormented their marriage was just one of the reasons she never ceased yearning to reclaim her lost love. 
   Investigative reporter Leslie Maitland grew up enthralled by her mother’s accounts of forbidden romance and harrowing flight from the Nazis. Her book is both a journalist’s vivid depiction of a world at war and a daughter’s pursuit of a haunting question: what had become of the handsome Frenchman whose picture her mother continued to treasure almost fifty years after they parted? It is a tale of memory that reporting made real and a story of undying love that crosses the borders of time.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“One of those sweeping, epic, romantic novels that seems tailor-made for the Oscars and a long summer afternoon. Except it’s real! Leslie Maitland has the rare ability to bring history, adventure, and love alive.” —Bruce Feiler, New York Times best-selling author of Walking the Bible and Abraham

“How the small flame of an undying love can illuminate the darkness of a tragic era. This elegantly told story is for everyone." —James Carroll, New York Times best-selling author of Jerusalem, Jerusalem and Constantine’s Sword

“A mesmerizing memoir of one family's shattering experience during World War II. It's a tale at once heartbreaking and uplifting.” —Linda Fairstein, New York Times best-selling author of Silent Mercy

“Not only original social history of a high order, but one of the most poignant love-lost, love-found stories I have ever read, with an ending that Hollywood wouldn't dare.” —Robert MacNeil, Journalist-author

“Maitland is a brilliant reporter who knows what questions to ask and how to get her story. Written with the precision of a historian, the result is a work I could not put down and scarcely wanted to end.” —Michael Berenbaum, former director of the Holocaust Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

“A love affair thwarted by war, distance and a disapproving family became the defining story of Leslie Maitland’s mother's life, and by extension, her own. What happens next is surprising indeed.” —Cokie Roberts, NPR and ABC News analyst and author.

“A poignantly rendered, impeccably researched tale of a rupture healed by time.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This is a worthy testament to how war and displacement conspire against personal happiness.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“Maitland’s personal account of her family is a major contribution to history interlaced with a lovely love story.” –Arts and Leisure News

“This is a fascinating story of thwarted love, longing, and the travails of one woman and one family within the broader context of war and persecution. Maitland includes a treasury of old family photographs and documents to enhance this incredible story of the gauzy intersection of memory and fact.” –Vanessa Bush, Booklist (starred review)

“[Maitland] writes with a clear, candid journalist’s eye and manages to remove herself from the story, yet place herself into the narrative at the same time. [She] writes...with insight and honesty. She closes this noteworthy read with poetic understanding and gentleness.” –Jewish Book Council

Schindler’s List meets Casablanca in this tale of a daughter’s epic search for her mother’s prewar beau-50 years later.” –Good Housekeeping

“[A] gripping account of undying love-a tale of memory that reporting made real.” –Town & Country

“Crossing the Borders of Time is more beautiful than a novel because of the power of its true story and the richness with which it is told.” –Neal Gendler, The American Jewish World

“A gripping true-life tale of victims of Nazi persecution and one survivor's quest for her lost love.” –Shelf Awareness

“Sometimes the truth is not “stranger than fiction” but more compelling than fiction, and that’s the case here. Any reader who likes exciting World War II drama and a good love story will be drawn to this book. Well written and captivating, its story will stay with readers well after the book is finished.” –Library Journal

“An absorbing true account of romance, resilience, and survival during the years leading up to and during World War II, set against the backdrop of the Holocaust and the harrowing social history of mid-20th-century France.” –The Daily Beast

Crossing the Borders of Time will bewitch you. There is no fictionalized account of long-lost love that could be as compelling as this valentine to Leslie Maitland’s parents and the sad situations that threatened to ruin their moral compasses throughout their entire lives. Simply put, this is an unforgettable tale.” –Book Reporter

"Crossing the Borders of Time is a hair-raising tale of escape and survival, where crossing a border means everything. But sometimes, in this complicated world of loss, change and missed opportunities, it is just as amazing that love can make it across the biggest border of all: the border of time. Highly recommended." -American Girls Art Club in Paris

"The author makes fine use of her journalistic skills to conduct the search and to write about it, producing a narrative that is both informative and electrifying. History and the family saga combine in an informative and heart-warming tale that grips the reader's attention." -Indianapolis Jewish Post & Opinion

"This book gives a valuable window into how real people coped with war and also tells a compelling love story with modern twists. I highly recommend it." -Book Buzz

From the Publisher
“One of those sweeping, epic, romantic novels that seems tailor-made for the Oscars and a long summer afternoon. Except it’s real! Leslie Maitland has the rare ability to bring history, adventure, and love alive.” —Bruce Feiler, New York Times best-selling author of Walking the Bible and Abraham

“How the small flame of an undying love can illuminate the darkness of a tragic era. This elegantly told story is for everyone." —James Carroll, New York Times best-selling author of Jerusalem, Jerusalem and Constantine’s Sword

“A mesmerizing memoir of one family's shattering experience during World War II. It's a tale at once heartbreaking and uplifting.” —Linda Fairstein, New York Times best-selling author of Silent Mercy

“Not only original social history of a high order, but one of the most poignant love-lost, love-found stories I have ever read, with an ending that Hollywood wouldn't dare.” —Robert MacNeil, Journalist-author

“Maitland is a brilliant reporter who knows what questions to ask and how to get her story. Written with the precision of a historian, the result is a work I could not put down and scarcely wanted to end.” —Michael Berenbaum, former director of the Holocaust Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

“A love affair thwarted by war, distance and a disapproving family became the defining story of Leslie Maitland’s mother's life, and by extension, her own. What happens next is surprising indeed.” —Cokie Roberts, NPR and ABC News analyst and author.

“A poignantly rendered, impeccably researched tale of a rupture healed by time.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This is a worthy testament to how war and displacement conspire against personal happiness.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“Maitland’s personal account of her family is a major contribution to history interlaced with a lovely love story.” –Arts and Leisure News

“This is a fascinating story of thwarted love, longing, and the travails of one woman and one family within the broader context of war and persecution. Maitland includes a treasury of old family photographs and documents to enhance this incredible story of the gauzy intersection of memory and fact.” –Vanessa Bush, Booklist (starred review)

“[Maitland] writes with a clear, candid journalist’s eye and manages to remove herself from the story, yet place herself into the narrative at the same time. [She] writes...with insight and honesty. She closes this noteworthy read with poetic understanding and gentleness.” –Jewish Book Council

Schindler’s List meets Casablanca in this tale of a daughter’s epic search for her mother’s prewar beau-50 years later.” –Good Housekeeping

“[A] gripping account of undying love-a tale of memory that reporting made real.” –Town & Country

“Crossing the Borders of Time is more beautiful than a novel because of the power of its true story and the richness with which it is told.” –Neal Gendler, The American Jewish World

“A gripping true-life tale of victims of Nazi persecution and one survivor's quest for her lost love.” –Shelf Awareness

“Sometimes the truth is not “stranger than fiction” but more compelling than fiction, and that’s the case here. Any reader who likes exciting World War II drama and a good love story will be drawn to this book. Well written and captivating, its story will stay with readers well after the book is finished.” –Library Journal

“An absorbing true account of romance, resilience, and survival during the years leading up to and during World War II, set against the backdrop of the Holocaust and the harrowing social history of mid-20th-century France.” –The Daily Beast

Crossing the Borders of Time will bewitch you. There is no fictionalized account of long-lost love that could be as compelling as this valentine to Leslie Maitland’s parents and the sad situations that threatened to ruin their moral compasses throughout their entire lives. Simply put, this is an unforgettable tale.” –Book Reporter

"The author makes fine use of her journalistic skills to conduct the search and to write about it, producing a narrative that is both informative and electrifying. History and the family saga combine in an informative and heart-warming tale that grips the reader's attention." -Indianapolis Jewish Post & Opinion

"Crossing the Borders of Time is a hair-raising tale of escape and survival, where crossing a border means everything. But sometimes, in this complicated world of loss, change and missed opportunities, it is just as amazing that love can make it across the biggest border of all: the border of time. Highly recommended." -American Girls Art Club in Paris

Publishers Weekly
In 1990, Maitland, a former New York Times reporter, went to Europe searching for her mother Janine’s long-lost love. Janine was born to a prosperous German-Jewish family, and she enjoyed a sense of belonging in Freiburg, her hometown until age 15 when the family fled the Nazis to Mulhouse, France, in 1938. There her parents granted her greater freedom, and she began a romance with a 19-year-old Catholic, Roland, only to flee the advancing Germans to Gray, France, and then to Lyon, where Janine bumped into Roland in 1941 and was again entranced. But forced to flee once more, the family finally arrived in America, where Janine embarked on a difficult marriage to a philanderer and rabid Ayn Rand acolyte. But Janine always pined for Roland, whose letters her father had intercepted and hid. While this book is overlong and Maitland fails to make Janine’s love affair and dysfunctional marriage compelling, Janine’s prewar life and wartime travails and Maitland’s descriptions of prewar European Jewish communities and their suffering under the Nazis are far more engrossing, This is a worthy testament to how war and displacement conspire against personal happiness. Photos. Agent: Rob Goldfarb, Ron Goldfarb & Associates. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
Love lost in Alsace during World War II, rediscovered 50 years later in New Jersey. A former New York Times journalist, Maitland has seized on her family's far-flung tale of fleeing the Nazis in Europe and energetically made it her own. Having grown up under her mother's heavy emotional baggage, the author came to share the sense of shame and sadness that her mother carried with her as an immigrant to the United States in 1943, a refugee of Nazi Germany. Maitland's mother Janine, along with her German-speaking parents, sister and brother, originally fled in 1938 from Freiburg, having lost everything they owned. From Mulhouse, France, where the teenagers hastily learned French, they moved to Gray, where the family eventually got transit papers to pass through to the Free Zone. The family then landed in Lyon, where Janine, now a young woman, reignited a friendship with a dashing Catholic law student, Roland Arcieri. After falling in love during their brief time together, Janine was yanked away again with her family—to Cuba and then America. Soon married to a successful salesman, Janine did not stop grieving for her first love, and Arcieri apparently tried to find her. However, Janine's father, who wanted her to have a fresh start in America, intercepted his letters. In 1989, Maitland organized a trip back to Freiberg and to Mulhouse with her family. Once her father died, she tracked down Arcieri, who was then living in Montreal. Though the details of the courtship are a little bizarre, especially since the author re-creates her mother's bold seduction of Arcieri, who was married, this is a touching story about the odd collision of fate and will. A poignantly rendered, impeccably researched tale of a rupture healed by time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590515709
  • Publisher: Other Press, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 103,746
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.06 (h) x 1.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Leslie Maitland is a former New York Times reporter who specialized in legal affairs and investigative reporting. She joined the Times after graduating from the University of Chicago and the Harvard Divinity School. After breaking stories on the FBI’s undercover “Abscam” inquiry into corruption in Congress, she moved to the New York Times Washington Bureau to cover the Justice Department. After leaving the Times, she began, among other projects, extensive research for this book, including five reporting trips to Europe and one to Cuba. She has frequently participated in programs discussing literature on The Diane Rehm Show on National Public Radio. Maitland lives with her husband in Bethesda, Maryland.

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Read an Excerpt

I came into the book of life almost two years after my parents mar­ried, disadvantaged, as are we all, by not knowing what occurred be­fore. Who can grasp that as a child? Unsuspecting, we fall into the plot of time and try to piece the past together. We puzzle over mysterious scars, we catch the scent of doubt in the air, and we stumble over relics of dreams that litter the intimate family landscape. Years go by before we discern our place in the story, yet as we open our eyes on the dawn of our lives, we may imagine the world begins with us.
The day that I entered the tale I am telling was one of the very few times in life I managed to show up anywhere early. Shortchanged at only eight months, I was ejected into the world prematurely, which apparently left me feeling aggrieved. I would later have to hear many times how I flailed and kicked so furiously in my bassinet that the nurses resorted to binding my legs together in the attempt to stop me from bruising myself. Then and there, they warned my mother that it appeared she would have a somewhat difficult case on her hands.
Did that sour professional view worsen the mood she was in the following day when my father failed to arrive until afternoon to visit us both at the hospital? He bounded into her private room sporting a novelty tie with a proud announcement splashed in yellow on a bur­gundy background: “It’s a Girl! It’s a Girl! It’s a Girl!” the tie squawked the news in a pattern of print from collar to belt. But that was not all. He arrived with a dozen fragrant gardenia corsages, which he pro­ceeded to pin on all the nurses on the obstetrics ward. By the time he returned to my mother’s bedside, the florist’s box with its waxed layers of green tissue paper was empty: in a flush of munificence, Len had given all the creamy flowers away, neglecting to save a corsage for his wife. Thus it began. The first battle I witnessed between my parents evolved from my father’s needy compulsion to enchant other women.
“By all means, take those too.” Janine pointed to a lavish display of long-stemmed red roses, a gift from Norbert, still based in Germany. “I’m sure there must be some nurses you missed. You could always try a different floor.” Later that night after Len went home—and before a nurse extolling his charms wheeled me off to sleep with my newborn peers—my mother and I indulged in a solid postpartum cry together. They were not the last tears my father would cost us.
A basic premise of my parents’ marriage was my mother’s refusal to leave her parents. Having failed to leave them for Roland, nothing could make her move away once she’d married someone else. When Herbert offered Len a job, Janine insisted he turn it down because, while it was a leg up to a great career, it involved a six-month posting to Japan. No, she said, not possible even temporarily for her to leave New York. Reluctantly rejecting Herbert’s offer, Len continued in the engineering salesman’s job that cast him as a wandering peddler. And again, six years later, when Janine went with him on a business trip to California, in deference to her feelings Len sacrificed a lucrative op­portunity that would have meant their moving to Los Angeles.
The people here keep telling me what a remarkable husband I have, and they offered him a very important job in the factory, which he would love to accept,” Janine wrote home to Trudi. But the company president told her that Len had turned it down out of his “respect” for her attachment to her familyborn out of the troubles we went through together.” She confided to Trudi, “I didn’t realize he was that understanding.”
Janine was working now for Mount Sinai Hospital’s chief of car­diology, and when it came to household chores, Len initially took upon himself both the laundry and the gritty cleaning. Every Monday evening, he celebrated their Monday wedding with another anniver­sary present, and at the end of their first year, he gave his bride his handmade voucher—a Gutschein, as her parents termed it—for the belated purchase of a diamond ring. It was an offer she did not accept because she knew that he could not afford it. Happily, he plunged into the family circle and answered now to “Leonardle,” the badisch nickname Alice gave him in token of her growing fondness. So, for the time being, he took it as a fine arrangement when he and Janine found their own apartment literally steps away from his in-laws. Amid a se­rious postwar housing shortage, they, too, paid the superintendent’s $500 finder’s fee to rent a place across the hall from Janine’s parents. A penthouse on Fifth Avenue would not have pleased her more.
From the start, Janine and Trudi with their husbands spent their time together, and they were several sets into canasta on a sticky sum­mer evening one year after they had married, when Trudi shared alarming news. She had taken Alice to the dentist that afternoon to see about a painful canker sore, and he had raised the possibility their mother’s lesion might be cancerous.
“God, no!” Janine burst out. “I’d better get pregnant quickly! If something happens to Mother, I’ll need someone to love!” She tossed out these words unthinkingly, like easy discards from a well-planned hand, and Len pretended not to hear her. Afterward, the devastating impact of her statement hit her, and she felt guilty, even as her goal remained. By summer’s end, while fears for Alice proved ungrounded, Janine and Trudi both were pregnant, and ever locked in rivalry, they conceived just weeks apart, so that Trudi’s daughter Lynne would be born merely twenty days ahead of me.
“What goes through a man’s mind, driving seven hundred miles home without having earned a cent?” Arthur Miller wrote of the salesman’s plight in the year that I was born. In my father’s case, his letters from the road in March 19, 1939 voice the ache of exile from his cozy home and distance from his pregnant wife. “Ich bin ganz allein in der großen Welt,” I am all alone in the big world, he wrote to Janine from Hudson, New York, repeating words he knew that she had used in childhood, writing home in misery from her prescribed confine­ment in the Alps. “I’m very lonesome without you and can’t wait till I get home to you again,” he bewailed from Syracuse.It’s awful not to be near enough to call you during the day, and the nights are intolerable.”
 
Finding my father’s needy, youthful letters only after he had died was a wrenching revelation to me. Even now, I read them with over­whelming grief of loss. How I wish I might have known this tender, ardent, open man.
Syracuse—My dearest, I think of you constantly and pray that you are all right—I miss you so terribly that it makes me sick some­times. . . . It makes me so nervous and uneasy to be away that all I can think of is getting thru and getting home. . . . My darling, I love you so much and I want you with me always . . . I’ve been a good boy and haven’t even done anything bad—you’d be proud of me. But I have no desire for any one but you. . . . Take me in your arms tonight. I need you, and I’m loving you with all my heart. Len He called her almost every day and shared his schemes to organize his business stops, scattered in far-flung towns around the state, in order to steer home to her as soon as possible. “More and more,” he wrote from Utica, describing his new outlook, “I realize that family life is really the most important thing and can’t wait to get home to start it again with the girl of my dreams.” Longing for her robbed him of necessary patience to study for his state engineering license test, he fretted, even as he also worried over racking up sufficient sales to justify his trip expenses to his boss. “I’m shaking oak trees” in hopes of knocking loose potential business, he wrote, but the market was so bad that “each sale, no matter how small, is like pulling teeth—impacted molars.”
But the letter that most captured me was one that showed how poorly Leonard understood the rival he was battling. What was Janine thinking when she shifted to her husband the anthem of her first ro­mance? “J’Attendrai” was the secondhand love song that Len sang aloud in his hotel room to fill the cold space of his solitude. He could not have known the song belonged irrevocably to another man or that its words of loss and longing would conjure up Roland for her.
I miss you muchissimo and wonder how the devil I sleep at all without you. I’ve been so allein that I keep talking to myself nights to keep up a conversation and then sing “J’Attendrai” to you for an encore. A few more days of this and I’ll be as nutty as a fruitcake so please don’t mind if I seem a little peculiar at first when I return. I’m a-lovin and a-worshippin that girl of mine—you know who she is—yes, Hannele, and please tell her if you can. All my love and a thousand hugs and kisses, Len When I read the letters of that eager, boyish husband, I see him on a marital minefield, like the “wide open flats” of the windy corporate campuses he described, but this one rigged with potent memories of an unseen rival. Len, Janine, and Roland—each betrayed by love and war.
In the fall of 1948, Sigmar and Alice left the city for a few weeks’ visit with Heinrich’s family in Buffalo. This annual pilgrimage and a two-week summer stay at a lake in the Catskills—he reading, she knitting— were the couple’s only forays from the confines of their small apartment where their daily lives were governed by routine and economy. Already sixty-two when he reached the States, Sigmar had not attempted to get a job. Instead he worked at learning stratagems of stock investing—this notwithstanding the fact that his prospects for growing capital were significantly diminished when the great inheritance he had anticipated in America proved much smaller than expected. His original large bequest from one wealthy older brother had dwindled throughout the many years he couldn’t claim it or direct the way it was invested. And the widow of another older brother who had died childless many years before, leaving a vast estate and similarly generous bequests to his sib­lings, had managed to circumvent the will to her advantage. Yet when Sigmar’s surviving brothers and sisters sued to win their lawful shares, he refused to go along with them.  “I should sue my brother’s widow?” Sigmar demanded with incre­dulity, denouncing his siblings’ lawsuit as an ugly tactic, regardless of her assets or greedy machinations.
What money Sigmar gained from the first inheritance went to repay­ing with interest all his debts to Herbert, Maurice, and Edy, and the bal­ance he endeavored to invest. Every day he went to Wall Street to learn beside his cousin Max, who was trying to become a broker. In the risky ventures of the market, though, Sigmar’s belated apprenticeship proved more costly than profitable. He watched, now in helpless indecision, then in loyalty to those few stocks he termed his “darlings,” as the value of his holdings fell. In that context, calling home one day from Buffalo, he told Janine to search his files to verify the purchase price of shares that now seemed poised to plummet even lower.
The blinds were drawn and everything in tidy order in her parents’ second-floor apartment when Janine, then ten weeks pregnant, sat down at Sigmar’s mahogany keyhole desk in the living room. Above her head, a large framed picture of President Franklin D. Roosevelt reflected her father’s gratitude to his new country. After years of liv­ing with the visages of Hitler and Pétain leering at him everywhere, Sigmar had uncharacteristically sent away for this poster-sized ar­tistic tribute to FDR, believing, with many Jewish refugees, that the patrician wartime president had done his best to rescue them. (That Roosevelt had failed to open the gates of immigration to Europe’s victims anywhere near as widely as he could have, or that his adminis­tration had refused to accede to Jewish pleas to bomb the railway lines leading to Nazi death camps, were facts not yet known.)
In years to come, Janine would not remember whether the finan­cial statement Sigmar needed had been difficult to find, obliging her to expand her search of his private files, or—she acknowledged the possibility—it was random, audacious snooping that broadened her explorations. Either way, like Pandora, she would regret her curios­ity, when drifting from the broker’s statements, her eyes picked out a telegram from the International Committee of the Red Cross. It announced that a Roland Arcieri had enlisted help in France through the Red Cross Tracing Service to determine the whereabouts of a Janine Günzburger in New York. In the event this message reached her, the Red Cross instructed her to get in touch—promptly, please.
In an instant of total joy she forgot the sorry waste of tortured years, forgot her husband, forgot the child nestling deep inside her, and she responded to the wondrous fulfillment of her greatest wish: finally, finally, Roland was calling out for her! At last, after all her years of patient waiting, here was clear-cut proof of Roland’s enduring love. Yes, with the urgency of a telegram, her lover was crying out to her.
In a fever of excitement, she studied the telegram for directions on responding. But when had it arrived? She read it again, flipped it over, hunted vainly for its envelope, but no date could be found. Why had no one shared this with her? A cloud of dark suspicion slowly slid across her heart. Months or even years could well have passed since this telegram arrived. She struggled with the realization that its burial among Sigmar’s papers was proof that he had purposely concealed it. The ground tilted underneath her feet. The father whose steely dic­tates she had always feared, but whose honor she had never doubted, had acted with unconscionable deception.
A wave of nausea seized her. She fought for breath, her legs felt weak, and the room began to turn: Roosevelt, so solemn in his business suit, the violets with their velvet buds uncurling on the windowsill, Lindt chocolates in a porcelain dish that Alice offered every guest, the Aufbau’s latest issue folded on the coffee table, a cut-glass ashtray next to Sigmar’s reading chair—all these ordinary objects now seemed sly and slippery. Like painted scenery on a stage, her parents’ gemütlich living room disguised a disappointing world of secrets and duplicity. She gripped the corner of the desk. An unaccustomed sense of rage and violation overcame her, and she did not know what to do with it. Her thoughts went racing backward in useless search of explanations to make forgiveness possible.
Did this mean there had been letters too? Obviously so! Her love had written, begging her to come to him, and not receiving any an­swer, Roland could only have concluded that his letters failed to reach her. Why else would he have turned to the Red Cross Tracing Ser­vice? But hadn’t Norbert given him her address when they got to­gether in Lyon? Then surely he had written her! How terrible for him, through years of doubt and silence, to be misled into believing that she had forgotten him. With eager fingers and frantic determination to understand the truth of things, she ransacked every drawer of Sig­mar’s desk, certain that if he saved the telegram, he must have saved the letters too. Surely, the telegram was proof that Father would not have dared destroy them. But there was only that one telegram, saved from the incinerator by its officious pedigree, the sort of communi­cation, she recognized, that no true German like her father, mindful of proper record keeping, would carelessly obliterate. Suspended in time—with a past that now demanded reevaluation, a present that no longer seemed of her own making, and a future robbed of honest choices—Janine spent hours on the floor of her parents’ living room, debating where to go from there. No point in raising the issue with Father. He’d cite his rights—no, his obligation—to protect his love­sick daughter from the dangers of pursuing an ill-advised relation­ship. Sigmar would not admit to doing wrong, and it would only drive a wedge between them. And so, respectful of his authority and still devotedly committed to winning his approval, she worked to squelch the anger to which she was entitled.
Beyond that, she numbly granted, she could hardly bring the issue to the open without involving Len and showing him how much Ro­land still mattered to her. Why hurt her husband now and taint their marriage, when she couldn’t leave him anyway? For how could she sail back to France anchored by an unborn child? She was fixed to the spot by the growing weight of me within her womb. The golden moment when she might have set a different course was as lost in clouded history as an intercepted telegram hidden in a file drawer.

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Table of Contents

Map of the Günzburgers' Route of Escape through Occupied France, 1940-1942 xi

1 "What's Past is Prologue" 1

2 The Black Forest 8

3 Die Nazi-Zeit 30

4 The Sidewalk of Cuckolds 48

5 The Tattler's Stone 61

6 Gray Days, Phony War 80

7 Traveling Shoes 102

8 Occupied 117

9 A Telling Time 131

10 Crossing the Line 144

11 The Sun King 169

12 F'attendrai 184

13 A Time Out of Time 201

14 Darkness on the Face of the Deep 220

15 Incommunicado 250

16 Leben in Limbo 267

17 Hotel Terminus 282

18 The Lion and Miss America 303

19 Love Letters 326

20 From the Dyckman House to Our New House 342

21 The Other Woman 363

22 Atlas 380

23 Togetherness 399

24 Crossing the Border 413

25 The Agenda 424

26 MidiMoins Dix 442

27 A la Fin 459

Author's Note 479

Family Tree 486

Selected Bibliography 489

Photo Credits 493

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Reading Group Guide

1.

What was the impetus that began Leslie Maitland’s search for her mother’s long lost lover? Do you have any unanswered questions about your family’s past?

2.

How are Roland and Leonard different from each other, and how does Janine’s memory of Roland affect her relationship with her husband? Do you think she shared too much information with her husband and her children about her romantic past? Were Leonard’s infidelities a reflection of his character or the mores of the times; or were they a bid for attention from Janine, or even an effort to retaliate for Roland’s persistent shadow in their marriage?

3.

Crossing the Borders of Time is deeply rooted in WWII history and the Holocaust. How does Leslie Maitland use Janine’s story to reflect the differing attitudes toward the rise of Nazism, anti-Semitism, and various other prejudices? Did you learn anything about WWII history that you didn’t know before?

4.

In 1989, the Maitland family returned to Freiburg, where Jewish former citizens were invited to return to their birthplace. What do you think about this attempt at reconciliation or atonement? What did you think of their encounters on this and later trips with figures from the family’s past?

5.

How does Leslie Maitland’s background as a New York Times investigative reporter help her tell this story? Do you think a reporter is better equipped than a novelist to write this kind of book?

6.

After fleeing France, the Günzburger family was exiled and displaced in Cuba, before eventually gaining entry into the United States. How is this similar or different from other Jewish refugee stories that you’ve heard? Were you surprised to learn that the United States accepted so few refugees from Hitler-dominated Europe and that Leonard felt obliged to change his last name in response to anti-Semitism in American business circles?

7.

What did you think of Janine’s relationship with her family – of her obedient decision to remain in New York after the war rather than return to France, and of her silent acceptance of Sigmar’s and Norbert’s efforts to thwart her marrying Roland?

8.

Roland and Janine were separated and reunited through a mixture of historical and personal forces. How do you think their separation altered their perceptions of each other, and of love in general? How did you react to the difficult compromises that they made at the ending?  What solution to their situation would you have advised for them?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 28 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(15)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 1, 2012

    The history is spot on. And more than most Holocaust era rememb

    The history is spot on. And more than most Holocaust era remembrances, this one weaves a narrative not just in the black and white of good and evil, but in the multi-hued texture of life in a world gone mad. The book ostensibly weaves an absolutely story of first love lost and re-found as it slipped from the protagonists grasp with Hitler's rise, occupation, deportation, emigration, immigration, and, eventually, love refound 60 years later on another continent. If it were a novel, it would be described as epic. But every word is true, so its best described as astonishing! The author brings a reporters sensibility to the facts, while bringing an almost cinematographic touch to the narrative. All-in-all, a great work of history, truth and narrative -- and I wouldn't be surprised if it gets optioned to Hollywood, too! Read it now, and get ahead of the curve!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 30, 2012

    Great read!

    This well researched biographical tale reads like a novel. It tells gripping the tale of the heroic escape of a young girl and her family from the Nazis in Germany and France and the ensuing 60 years in the context of lost love and the desire to find it again. I was heavily invested in the characters and felt like I knew them. I highly recommend the book and can't wait to see the movie!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2012

    Excellent book

    Leslie Maitland is a prize winning journalist who writes the history of her family as they must leave their home in Freiberg, Germany during WWII. Their journey takes them to France, to Cuba and ultimately to the United States. It is so beautifully written and gives such insight to what happens to Jewish families, their friends and loved ones who do manage to escape the brutality of the Nazi's. This family lost their business, their home, and so much more. Maitland's mother Janine leaves behind the love of her life, Roland. She marries Maitland's father Len who has a story of his own, but never forgets Roland and shares her stories with Maitland. The investigative reporting of this story results in this beautiful book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2013

    Extremely disappointing.

    While the pages of information about the dislocation of the Jewish population is interesting, it is not new, and others have presented better and more scholarly accounts. The love affair, which is billed as the central story, is basically non-existent. Very disappointing and not as advertised.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

    Better than I had hoped for.

    Great history lesson and love story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 12, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Powerful. While retrospect gives us 20/20, while in the throws

    Powerful. While retrospect gives us 20/20, while in the throws of the present, decisions and behavior are not black and white. Anyone who has been through anything significant empathizes with the couple in love and their unfortunate timing. While the love story is always primary, the author does a magnificent job of detailing the horrors of the holocaust.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    I first read a condensed version and although it was good it did not do it justice the original version was much better. Very interesting book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2013

    Amazing love story

    I don't read love stories but this one laid me flat out reading non-stop for two days. I just could not put it down. Leslie Maitland has done a spectacular job of relaying her family history. It is amazing that more people do not talk about the war. I remember a neighbor when I was a child who was a GI and how he never talked about it...even then I wanted information that never came. The realities of the suffering that people went through should be revealed. There are terrible web sites today that insinuate that the Holocost never happened, that it is a Jewish plot! There are young people out there that believe that. I am shocked that anyone sane would seriously think that way and that is why more stories like this need to be told.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2013

    6/8/14

    I really enjoyed the history details writen from a personal experience. As far as the love story, I thought the behavior was a little foolish. If Janine really loved Roland, she should have not let her family interfere. Once she decided on Len, she should have not discussed her other love. As to the later affair, 50 years later, while he is married, really stupid, going no where.

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  • Posted November 23, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I truly enjoyed this story. I gained so much history on a subjec

    I truly enjoyed this story. I gained so much history on a subject I thought I already knew so much about (the holocaust), while also enjoying a heartfelt (true) love story. This book is professionally written, easy to follow, and very, very interesting. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a book pack jammed with history, romance, and an interesting biography.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 13, 2012

    What a wonderful read!!! Well researched, hard to put down.

    What a wonderful read!!! Well researched, hard to put down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

    Eaclark66

    Another great time-period read of love lost in WW II? Being a true story and seeing the pictures really made it more interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    Powerful story

    This is an amazing true story. Some might not like all the detail, but it's amazing to me that the family kept so much fo the documentation!

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  • Posted May 21, 2012

    Can recommend this seller!

    Arrived as promised and in great condition!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2012

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