October 28, 1938
Five men walked into the hallway. Two of them wore the familiar navy-blue police uniform, two wore the black uniform of the SS or Schutzstaffel, and the fifth man was dressed in civilian clothes, with the Nazi armband on his sleeve. One policeman held a sheet of paper. He looked at me and snapped, "Oskar Weissberger?"
"That is my father."
"Where is he?"
"He is in America."
"That is a lie," he shouted. "His name is on the list."
And so begins Bertel Weissberger's terrifying odyssey. Bertel is twelve years old and living in Hindenburg, Germany, with her mother Ilona and her sister Eva. They are waiting for their American visas to arrive while making preparations to join Oskar in America. These plans are crushed on October 28 when the Nazis round up the Jews in Hindenburg, forcibly expelling Bertel and her family from Germany into Poland. For the next seven years, Bertel conceals her true identity. She learns to speak Polish, changes her appearance, and uses falsified documents. Living as a young Polish woman under an assumed name, she struggles to survive as she moves from town to town in Nazi-occupied Poland. Although at times there is the blessing of friendship and a helping hand, Bertel lives in constant fear of discovery and certain death.
This is a remarkable story of faith, Providence, and the astounding ability of a young girl to survive while hiding in plain sight, in the dark shadow of the Nazi death factory.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a modern classic, a book that as long as you read it you feel that you are living day by day in the days of horror. Because of the author's survival from age 13 (when she is expelled with no possessions from her native Germany) to 18 (when she smuggles herself from Poland to Sweden to escape the communists) she witnesses and experiences the major events of the holocaust - all except the gas chambers. The reader finds him or herself vicariously living the holocaust and learning about it in a way that is not possible from reading history books. The author barely escapes the evacuation of her small Polish Ghetto, she hides with Christians , she works with false work papers as a secretary for the Polish government, as a governess for a Nazi official, as a seamstress. She volunteers as first aide worker during the Warsaw Uprising and this may be one of the finest first person accounts of this forgotten bout of heroism. There is also story within a story: a single mother who favors her older sister, a girl striving to impress her mother to be loved equally and also a love affair with an older man which she conveys as deeply romantic, even thrilling. The author comes across as an everyday heroine -- yet even though she is describing herself , the author strikes the reader as a modest person. Her generousity and morality are very moving. In fact one leaves the book, surprisingly with a higher view of humanity than before the book was read. The narrator is the kind of teenage girl anyone would pray to have as a daughter or sister or a friend whom one might model oneself after The book indeed could also be termed 'The Rules,' -- not for dating but for surviving : always build alliances, never be alone, don't take 'no' for an answer, don't follow prevailing wisdom, never be passive, find a true friend, family is all. Another 'rule' could be added: Don't miss this book! Buy a book for your friends and family, particularly if they have young daughters. Bravo to Betty Lauer!
I have read many memoirs on the Holocaust, but never any as detailed as this one. Betty Lauer's depiction of her and her family's escape from the Nazis is written so vividly that I was able to clearly visualize her horrific ordeal. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in gaining perspective on what the experience was like for a Holocaust survivor who manages to stay out of a concentration camp.
By pulling the reader in to this harrowing story of survival, faith and love, Hiding in Plain Sight is an incredible read. It provides a very well-rounded view of the Holocaust and World War II's damage and devastating effects from both the Jewish and non-Jewish perspective.