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Displaced Persons: A Novel Hardcover – August 10, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (August 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061881902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061881909
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,892,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Schwarz ... captures perfectly, and with elegance, the highs and lows, the grief and anger, and the paranoia of these refugees. In a word, this is a ‘humane’ novel.” (USA Today)

“A deft rendering of the emotional architecture of an ad-hoc family of Holocaust survivors.” (Vogue)

“Ghita Schwarz makes her mark with this remarkable debut. Displaced Persons is a brave, brilliant, and haunting work of art.” (Colson Whitehead, author of JOHN HENRY DAYS and SAG HARBOR)

“This is an amazing novel. The writing is piercing and clear, and the humanity of the author and her characters will inhabit my thoughts for years to come.” (Anne Roiphe, New York Times bestselling author of Epilogue: A Memoir)

“Ghita Schwarz poignantly reminds us that history chases us even if we run from it and that memory ensnares us wherever we turn. Displaced Persons is a big, ambitious novel, yet what’s most striking is its humanity....[it] is a terrific novel.” (Joshua Henkin, author of the New York Times Notable Book, Matrimony)

“In her warm portrayal of the postwar highs and lows experienced by Pavel and his family, Schwarz aptly evokes the emotions of those who survived.” (Publishers Weekly on DISPLACED PERSONS)

“Poignant and sharp, this engrossing first novel takes a …look at a time and a people defined by deep inner strength. Recommended for a wide range of readers, and a perfect book club choice.” (Library Journal (starred review) on DISPLACED PERSONS)

“Deceptively simple in style, Schwarz’s narrative discloses depths of tragedy, of suffering, and occasionally of hope…Stark, unadorned fiction, well worth reading.” (Kirkus)

“In this powerful debut novel, author Ghita Schwarz, a child of Holocaust survivors, hypnotically spins the tale of a Polish Jew Named Pavel who bravely rebuilds his shattered life in the aftermath of World War II.... Schwarz brilliantly gives us the long view of what postwar survival really meant.” (Associated Press)

“An exquisite rendering of the internal lives of survivors” (Forward)

“A haunting and memorable debut. . . . Fascinating” (St Louis Jewish News)

“An epic tale...” (The Brooklyn Paper)

From the Back Cover

In May 1945, Pavel Mandl, a Polish Jew recently liberated from a concentration camp, finds himself among similarly displaced persons gathered in the Allied occupation zones of a defeated Germany. Possessing little besides a map, a few tins of food, and a talent for black-market trading, he must scrape together a new life in a chaotic community of refugees, civilians, and soldiers. With fellow refugees Fela, a young widow, and Chaim, a resourceful teenager with impressive smuggling skills, Pavel establishes a makeshift family, as together they face an uncertain future. Eventually the trio immigrates to the United States, where they grapple with past traumas that arise again in the everyday moments of lives no longer dominated by the need to endure, fight, hide, or escape.

Ghita Schwarz’s Displaced Persons is an astonishing novel of grief, anger, and survival that examines the landscape of liberation and reveals the interior despairs and joys of immigrants shaped by war and trauma.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Ghita Schwarz grew up in a family of postwar Jewish refugees. Her first novel, Displaced Persons, explores the struggles and joys of a small group of Holocaust survivors who meet in a refugee camp in occupied Germany and make their way to the United States, where they raise families and establish new identities and communities.

A civil rights lawyer in New York, Ghita litigates cases on behalf of immigrants and others in federal and state courts. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The Believer, Ploughshares, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 26 customer reviews
Underlying the story, one can feel the longing and yearning of these people for those they once loved and who perished.
Mr. August
You know, there are just too many books to be read and enjoyed for me to spend time with a story and characters I just can't "get into."
Richard B. Green
This is a amazing story about a refugee left with nothing who must live in Germany post WWII and find his place in the world.
Lynn Ellingwood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gab VINE VOICE on July 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the aftermath of the Holocaust when the Allied Forces liberated the concentration camps, the survivors were all marked and scarred for life. Some of the signs were visible, the tattooed numbers on their arms, their physically deformed bodies, but all of them carried with them emotional damage not visible to others. Ghita Schwartz's novel, "Displaced Persons," is a powerful work centering on well-developed characters who are DPs who go about attempting to reconstruct and rebuild their destroyed existences.

This novel delves into the lives of those who "survived' by forming new families with other survivors, those who spent endless, mostly futile, years searching for the possibility of any remaining blood relatives and focuses on their years as DPs (there were no homes to go back to, no villages that welcomed them home, no yellow ribbons tied around old oak trees). The DP camps, overseen by the American and British forces, were way stations or holding pens until the DPs were able to find a country that would welcome them where they could resettle and begin to "live" again. Some DPs) went to Palestine where they had to learn to speak Hebrew and faced difficult transitions because they were not welcome by the Arabs (there was a British Mandate quota of 75,000 Jews permitted to immigrate) and found difficulty integrating with the Jews who had inhabited Palestine for hundreds if not thousands of years. Every country in the world, including the USA, had quotas and finding countries in which to resettle was daunting and took years for most of the DPs.

Most of the DPs awaited their new beginnings in Great Britain, Australia or America.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By T. Troyer on August 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I LOVED THIS BOOK. I hope this author will write another novel with some of the same characters. I would definitely follow these people through 2 or 3 novels the same way I did with Updike's Rabbit.

After just 5 or 10 pages, I knew I was really going to enjoy book, and that the characters wouldn't be same stereotypes or cartoon cut-outs which sometimes populate Holocaust literature and movies. There's a neat trick right up front, where the 2 survivors suddenly end up in possession of loot plundered by Nazis from ... non-survivors. Already this one event lends a moral complexity to the book which is usually missing in genocide books. Author has very deep knowledge of the community in question, and tells the story without playing favorites or making judgments.

I loved the way the Yiddish was rendered in English. I loved the absence of any narrative flourish or showing off by author. Author gets out of the way of her characters, lets them do the talking.

I disagree w/ the customer review which suggests the book peters out. For me, the psychological drama went progressively deeper, and remained compelling to the end. There are revelations throughout the novel, whether about prior spouses who vanished into camps and then reappeared decades later, or about actual atrocities suffered in the first place.

I also disagree with the reviewer who complained the characters seem too uniformly depressed and damaged. While the cheerful survivor couple in Canada is a stirring anecdote, and I would be happy to read a separate book about them, I found it entirely believable that the survivors in Schwarz's novel would wrestle w/ depression, anger and anxiety until the day they died. And that their children would do so too, to a lesser extent .
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. August VINE VOICE on September 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have read many Holocaust novels, stories drawn from the atrocities of that era. I have not read many in depth narratives of the DP's or displaced persons. After the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the British and the Americans set up temporary barracks to house the survivors - sort of a way station for these sorry souls to find a country that would accept them. The anguish and sorrow of these groups was not usually overt; they had experienced and seen such horror that to think of it would surely drive them mad, they would not emotionally survive. They followed orders in the DP camps, worked the system, and desperately tried to regain their pride and ability to care for their families. Survivors, who barely knew each other, quickly married. Women who lost children were desperate to give birth to a healthy baby. Life had been intangible for so many years.

Schwarz centers her story of displaced persons with some Polish Jews: Pavel, Flea and Chaim. Schwarz deftly removes herself, removes her judgments by just telling us about their survivals. She starts out slowly placing the story immediately after the Liberation but then she moves fast through the years and we can feel progress but know the underlying fear and outrageous loss will never die. The Polish Jews often had a more detestable outcome. After the War, when they attempted to return to their own homes in Poland, the very Poles who had "handed" them over to the Nazis, refused to give them back their land or homes and killed them.

The author intelligently reported other observations. An American rabbi would not marry a couple because there was no documentation that the bride was Jewish (having a Jewish mother).
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