Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: Alex's Wake by Martin Goldsmith

Alex’s Wake is a tale of two parallel journeys undertaken seven decades apart.

In the spring of 1939, Alex and Helmut Goldschmidt were two of more than 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany aboard the St. Louis, “the saddest ship afloat” (New York Times). Turned away from Cuba, the United States, and Canada, the St. Louis returned to Europe, a stark symbol of the world’s indifference to the gathering Holocaust. The Goldschmidts disembarked in France, where they spent the next three years in six different camps before being shipped to their deaths in Auschwitz.

In the spring of 2011, Alex’s grandson, Martin Goldsmith, followed in his relatives’ footsteps on a six-week journey of remembrance and hope, an irrational quest to reverse their fate and bring himself peace. Alex’s Wake movingly recounts the detailed histories of the two journeys, the witnesses Martin encounters for whom the events of the past are a vivid part of a living present, and an intimate, honest attempt to overcome a tormented family legacy.

Received for review

There are so many Holocaust stories out there that it's difficult to come across one that moves you any more than the others. This is true of this volume. It's a sad story and beautifully written, but there's nothing particularly new or different about it.

I liked that it detailed not only the story of the St. Louis but also the author's journey to discover more about his family history as well. It felt rather like an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?.

Overall, while there is nothing really new about the story the presentation is pleasant and the many photographs really help the reader to visualize the story. If you are interested in heartbreaking Holocaust stories then this is for you and I certainly recommend it to you but be prepared for many, many tears along the way.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

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