Gratefully Yours also is a reminder of the fact that our democracy continues to give new arrivals the opportunity to live and to thrive despite the imperfections of our, indeed any, political system. Dr. Rita Steinhardt Botwnick hopes others, like herself, will never take our blessings for granted.
The experiences of the Steinhardts, from the small German town of Winzig, were different from those of urban Jews. Here, persecution was often personal, including acts such as exercising newfound power, revenge for former poverty, and promotion of self-interest within the Nazi Party. There are thousands of books detailing the Nazi era, but few deal with the lives of Jews living in rural communities. This book puts faces on perpetrators, on German Christians who did not forget their code of decency, and on victims. The author's father and brother Jup exemplify courage and ingenuity, while the younger children carefully hid their misery from their parents. After all, even youngsters learned quickly that adults were unable to restore the childhood they had lost.
The escape of the author, her mother, father, and a brother to the United States was fraught with delays, anxiety, and drama. The second half of the memoir tells of the Steinhardts as a refugee family in a new land, speaking no or almost no English-often humorous, occasionally infuriating, always interesting.
Once begun, Gratefully Yours is not a book easily put down. The author is honest about her successes and her failures, but never maudlin, never vindictive. Her views are clearly stated, her positive outlook is infectious, and her style is concise, reflecting an unpretentious approach to an extraordinary life.