We Are Going to Pick Potatoes: Norway and the Holocaust, The Untold Story

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Irene Levin Berman was born, raised, and educated in Norway. Her first conscious recollection of life goes back to 1942, when as a young child she escaped to Sweden, a neutral country during World War II, to avoid annihilation. Germany had invaded Norway and the persecution of two thousand Norwegian Jews had begun. Seven members of her father's family were among the seven hundred and seventy-one unfortunate persons who were deported and sent to Auschwitz.

In 2005, Irene was forced to examine the label of being a Holocaust survivor. Her strong dual identity as a Norwegian and a Jew led her to explore previously unopened doors in her mind. This is not a narrative of the Holocaust alone, but the remembrance of growing up Jewish in Norway during and after WWII. In addition to the richness of both her Norwegian and Jewish cultures, she ultimately acquired yet another identity as an American.

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Editorial Reviews

Jewish Book World
It wasn’t until 2005 that Irene Levin Berman forced herself to examine what it meant to her to be a Holocaust survivor. Even after so many years, she strongly identified as a Jew and a Norwegian, as well as a United States citizen, but not having been in a ghetto or camp, she didn’t feel 'worthy' of the label 'survivor.' In 'We Are Going To Pick Potatoes': Norway and The Holocaust, The Untold Story, she describes what happened to the Jews of Norway during the Holocaust, focusing mainly on her particular family; this is as much an autobiography as an account of flight and resettlement in hospitable Sweden. A child of four when she was told 'We are going to pick potatoes,' she and her family embarked on a tortuously dangerous journey across the Alps to reach neutral Sweden, just missing the Gestapo roundup of November 26th for the purpose of mass arrests. It was 1942, and the Norwegian Jews who remained in Norway did not realize the danger they were in....Although this is primarily an account of the fate of the author’s extended family during the Holocaust, it is nevertheless an important addition to the library of survivor testimony since not much is known about Norwegian Jews during this period.
Arnfinn Moland
Irene [Levin] Berman tells an important and— for most Americans— unknown story about the destiny of the Norwegian Jews during WW II. Being herself a Holocaust survivor, her style is emotionally very strong, though factual and sober. This comprehensive, moving and heart-rending book, with a welcome underlying optimism in spite of traumatic experiences, deserves a wide circle of readers in the U.S.A, far beyond those of Norwegian descent.
Michael Melchior
The story of the effort and extent to which the Nazi war machine would reach out in order to annihilate even the most remote Jewish family. The story of indifference and courage, of despair and hope, of silence and action. A very Jewish and very human story which should be told and listened to.
Edward P. Gallagher
Irene Levin Berman has written a powerful, deeply moving book about a people, a place, and a time unfamiliar to many Americans. It is a story that should be widely known and remembered by all.
Nik Sten
Contemplating such a stomach-turning subject matter alongside the endearing intimate family details you offer is not easy, but the opportunity to learn a little about your remarkable family is a blessing to cherish. It is unimaginable to me the incredible courage, commitment, wisdom, and fortitude you had to muster to start and complete this work, and to render its content so thoughtfully and effectively.
Foreword Reviews, June 2010 - Benjamin Ivry
Unexpectedly precious.
Elie Wiesel
This ‘untold story’ about what happened to Norwegian Jews during the Holocaust deserves to be told—and now it is.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761850113
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 3/16/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 627,598
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Irene Levin Berman, a native of Norway, has lived in the United States most of her adult life. She is a professional translator of Scandinavian languages and has co-translated seven plays by Henrik Ibsen, Norway's renowned playwright. 'We Are Going to Pick Potatoes': Norway and the Holocaust, The Untold Story, which was first written in Norwegian by Ms. Berman and published in Norway in 2008, was translated into English by the author herself. To learn more about the book, and to get updates on Ms. Berman's latest appearances and events, please visit www.norwayandtheholocaust.com.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Why Norway Wasn't Too Small 1

1 The Escape 8

2 R ugees in Exile 17

3 Those Who Came First—The Levin Family 27

4 Those Who Came First—The Selikowitz Family 36

5 The Family That ‘Disappeared’ 50

6 War and Holocaust 71

7 The Silence 103

8 Return from Exile 113

9 Learning How To Be a Norwegian Jew 129

10 On Marrying a Jew 142

11 Life in America 147

12 The Myth about the Danish King 159

13 Identity 165

14 The Journey into the Past 178

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2013

    If you are of Scandinavian background, this is a must reading.

    We really don't know what the Jews went through while being overrun my Germany. It was humiliating and worst of all, they didn't know where they were going or when they would be back.
    This book was reviewed in our Sons of Norway Magazine and it caught my eye because of something in my childhood. In Fargo, ND, after the potato picker had gone through the field, we were allowed to glean the field and pick up any that were left behind. We paid 50 cents for a 100 pound bag.
    Yes, it's depressing to read when these people went through, but very educaitonal.

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  • Posted May 9, 2010

    A Story That Needed To Be Told

    Irene Levin Berman deserves great praise for telling the history of the Jews in Norway and in particular their experience in relation to the Holocaust. It is a travesty that the world has been relatively uninformed about this culture in Scandinavia. Ms Berman's personal voice echoes with every word. I highly recommend this publication.

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