Four Girls From Berlin: A True Story of a Friendship That Defied the Holocaust

Overview

A pair of silver Regency candlesticks.

Pieces of well-worn family jewelry.

More than a thousand documents, letters, and photographs

Lotte Meyerhoff's best friends risked their lives in Nazi Germany to safeguard these and other treasured heirlooms and mementos from her family and return them to her after the war. The Holocaust had left Lotte the lone survivor of her family, and these precious objects gave her ...

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Four Girls From Berlin: A True Story of a Friendship That Defied the Holocaust

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Overview

A pair of silver Regency candlesticks.

Pieces of well-worn family jewelry.

More than a thousand documents, letters, and photographs

Lotte Meyerhoff's best friends risked their lives in Nazi Germany to safeguard these and other treasured heirlooms and mementos from her family and return them to her after the war. The Holocaust had left Lotte the lone survivor of her family, and these precious objects gave her back a crucial piece of her past. Four Girls from Berlin vividly recreates that past and tells the story of Lotte and her courageous non-Jewish friends Ilonka, Erica, and Ursula as they lived under the shadow of Hitler in Berlin.

Written by Lotte's daughter, Marianne, this powerful memoir celebrates the unseverable bonds of friendship and a rich family legacy the Holocaust could not destroy.

"What a delightful book, and important, too. It gives us the courage and inspiration to utterly reject the fatalistic idea that fratricide, polemic, and enmity between Christians and Jews is inevitable and unchangeable. Finally, it reminds us never to forget or fail to appreciate those forces of light that bear witness to, and instill hope for, mankind and our world."
—Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

"Four Girls From Berlin is an evocative story of friendship, challenged in the most sinister environment. For Christians, it echoes the words of Jesus, 'greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.' The friendship of these four women, three Christians and a Jew, speaks of a greater humanity that in the face of the Nazi horror could not be broken. I strongly recommend men and women of all faiths to learn from it."
—The Venerable Lyle Dennen, Archdeacon, London, England

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The author, a filmmaker who conducted oral history interviews for Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, recounts the affecting experience of her mother, Lotte, a German Jew who barely escaped the fate of family members murdered by the Nazis. In 1938 Lotte followed her new husband to Cuba on the ill-fated S.S. St. Louis.After the ship was turned back to Europe, she was interned in a Dutch detention camp, smuggled out to Cuba and reunited with her husband (from whom she was later divorced). Lotte mostly refused to talk about the past, but a carton sent by three close German Christian friends from her childhood-Ilonka, Erica and Ursula-loosened her tongue. These young women, at great personal risk, had collected and preserved photos, documents and artifacts from Lotte's family. Because of their gift, Meyerhoff visited Germany many times to meet the surviving Ursula and Erica and their families. Much of the rambling text deals with the closeness that she developed with them and her desire to integrate her warm feelings toward her new friends with the tragic loss of a homeland that darkened her mother's life in America. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Over the past decade, an increasingly common genre of Holocaust memoirs is that in which the children of survivors integrate their own personal stories with a reconstruction of their parents' experiences during the Nazi era. Meyerhoff, a writer/director who worked on the Spielberg Visual Shoah project, offers a contribution to this genre. She begins with her own childhood in wartime Los Angeles, living with a mother who spoke very little English and an absent father serving in the U.S. Army (he divorced the author's mother after the war). Over time, the younger Meyerhoff grasped some details of her mother's story, although it was not until after her mother's death that the full account is revealed. She had been a passenger on the ill-fated USS St. Louis, whose Jewish refugees were denied entry into Cuba and the United States in 1938. Sent to Westerbork concentration camp in Holland for a year, she managed to escape thanks to gentile friends of the title who refused to abandon her. She eventually made it back to Cuba, then America. The younger Meyerhoff intersperses her mother's story with her search for the women who aided her mother and the reconstruction of their experiences during and after the war. While the book is well written, it is not well organized, thus proving more of a challenge than it should be. For Judaica collections and larger public libraries.
—Frederic Krome

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471224051
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 8/3/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 811,306
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Marianne Meyerhoff is a writer, director, and producer of both television and feature films. She worked with Steven Spielberg as an interviewer for the Shoah Foundation's oral history project, Survivors of the Shoah.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments.

Prologue.

1 Glimpses of a Shattered Past.

2 The Past Disinterred.

3 Benny and Daddy.

4 Hands across the Holocaust.

5 A Tale of Til.

6 Erica in Berlin.

7 Lotte’s Love.

8 Rena.

9 London.

10 Rena’s Class and the Voyage of the St. Louis.

11 A New Direction.

12 "Wiedersehen," Not Good-bye.

13 The Family Namgalies.

14 An Interview with Jochen.

15 An Interview with Erica.

16 Heidelberg.

Epilogue.

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