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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

HPart detective story and part tragedy, this retracing of one Jewish woman's survival in Germany during the Holocaust is a riveting story told by a master. A professor of history at the University of Southampton in England, Roseman first learned about Marianne Strauss's experiences in the late 1980s. He contacted Strauss and interviewed her, but he was unsatisfied with the results, in part because of Strauss's reticence about her past. So after her death in 1996, he journeyed across the world to find those who knew her in order to flesh out Strauss's recollections. What comes through in his interviews and readings of Strauss's extraordinary letters and diaries is the desire of a strong, graceful woman to preserve normalcy in the face of despairDduring the early years of the war, Strauss attended teacher training and passed her licensing examsDand the mixed motivations of Germans who helped Jews like Strauss survive. He argues, for instance, that Strauss's well-off father used his connections, and his money, to persuade the counterintelligence unit of the German army to protect his family. Roseman builds the tension regarding the ultimate fate of Strauss's family with the skill of a novelist. And using extensive oral history, he retraces the private lives of Strauss and her friends and family as they attempted to grapple with painful decisions, most notably, Strauss's own decision to escape by herself as her family was being arrested. By comparing the accounts of people who knew Strauss with her own account, he also offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of how historians operate. Photos. (Feb.) Forecast: Roseman will visit the U.S. to do national publicity. The publisher will do targeted mailings to those with an interest in Judaica and psychology, which should boost sales.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Roseman (modern history, Univ. of Southampton) examines the life of Marianne Strauss Ellenbogen, a German who survived the Holocaust. Through the heroism of a German officer, Ellenbogen got word from her fianc in the Izbica ghetto about conditions in the ghettos and camps, and when the Nazis came for her family, she used a diversion to escape. The rest of the family perished at Auschwitz. Ellenbogen emigrated to England after the war, where she had some preliminary conversations with Roseman before her death in 1996. Most of the book consists of Roseman's effort to reconcile Ellenbogen's memory of events with diaries, letters, and interviews. Several remarkable stories will fascinate readers, including a July 1944 BBC broadcast about mass murders at Auschwitz that Victor Klemperer corroborates in I Will Bear Witness (LJ 2/1/00) and Ellenbogen's efforts through the Communist Party to reform postwar Germany. Roseman loses his focus when he adds psychological commentary regarding the difference between memory and the written record, and his extensive first-person commentary about his research seems informal for a scholarly book. Still, this compelling work offers a remarkable cache of information that will be required reading for any Holocaust scholar. Recommended for all libraries.DRandall L. Schroeder, Wartburg Coll. Lib., Waverly, IA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (April 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031242065X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420659
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,098,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on March 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
A Past in Hiding is the story of Marianne Strauss-Ellenbogen and her extraordinary survival during the Holocaust. Presenting us with one young woman's real life story, Roseman does not paint a picture of a saint but that of a real flesh and blood person who, like us all, had great strengths and also weaknesses. She was, after all, in her teens when she was confronted with events too difficult for her to comprehend. She was only a couple of years older than Anne Frank, but what a different reality! Roseman's investigation into Marianne's history engages us deeply in the day-to-day life of herself, her family and friends. We can follow how and why they misjudged the increasingly dangerous environment they lived in.
The book has a lot more to offer than that. Given Roseman's extensive knowledge of modern German history, he is able to draw a multi-layered picture of every day life for the Jewish community in Germany during the Nazi period. The investigation into the role of the Abwehr in protecting selected Jewish Germans is pertinent for the recent debate around the complicity of the regular army with the SS and Gestapo. Moving between historical chronology and present day commentary and personal reflection on Marianne, the author pieces together a mosaic like a jigsaw puzzle. For most readers it will shed new light on the complexities of this period in recent history like very few other books I have read.
Roseman writes in a style that combines the historical with the intimate personal. He conveys his assessment of the characters and situations with empathy for their situation and struggles. At the time he reflects on discrepancies in their statements and recollections of the past. One of the most dramatic documents in the book is the diary of Marianne's fiancé, Ernst.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Fred B Charatan on February 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This 491 page biography describes the survival of Marianne Strauss, daughter of well-to-do Jews of Essen during the Nazi years. Born in 1923, and with a brother Richard three years younger, Marianne grew up under the antiJewish laws and increasing persecution culminating in Krystalnacht of November 1938. With the outbreak of the war, conditions for Marianne and her family deteriorated rapidly. She escaped deportation by fleeing the house when her parents and brother were rounded up by the Gestapo and sent to Theresienstadt and then Auschwitz. From 1943 to 1945, Marianne lived as a fugitive, helped by a leftwing German organization, the Bund. She was liberated by the American Army in 1945, married a British Army medical officer and made her home in England. Mark Roseman, a professor of modern history at the University of Southampton in England, has created in a vivid way Marianne's life as a "U-boat" in wartime Germany. He has obtained Marianne's letters, private diaries, and archival materials from Essen, Dusseldorf, Yad Vashem and many other sources. He interviewed Marianne many times almost up to her death in 1996 in Liverpool. He also contacted surviving members of her family and friends. The book is distinguished by poignant descriptions of Marianne's feelings, her struggles to deal with the deaths of her fiance Ernst Krombach, murdered by the Nazis in Izbica, and of her parents and younger brother who perished in Auschwitz. Professor Roseman recreates Marianne's contacts with helpers as well as with enemies who would denounce her, and analyzes her memory distortions and failures. Subtitled "Memory and Survival in Nazi Germany" "A Past in Hiding" like Victor Klemperer's "I Will Bear Witness", reveals the inhuman face of Nazi Germany in its persecution and mass murder of its Jewish citizens.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Montgomery on September 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
More than the focus on Marianne, I came away from this book thinking about Ernest. Marianne's story is better than most fiction in it's ability to illustrate a time and place gone, to breathe life into people we've never met and to serve as a larger parable for the history surrounding her. Ernest has his own place in this narrative. He is a look at the soul of a loving person trying desperatly to remain himself in impossible times. Both people of extreme character, Marianne and Ernest are worth knowing. Far beyond that, is the author's exploration of oral history and the pitfalls it contains. (That alone recommends this book to the casual family historian.) The inadequately documented actions of ordinary Germans of decency is given a boost by Marianne's papers and shines deserved light on many. If you've read several dozen testimonies already, this book still offers a great deal of new information to consider.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok HALL OF FAME on May 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Professor Mark Roseman's "A Past in Hiding" is a fascinating, often riveting, scholarly account of Marianne Strauss Ellenbogen's life in Nazi Germany. I suspect that this fine book will be remembered as one of the best written about the Holocaust. Its excellence stems from Roseman's analytic, almost psychological, portrayal of Ms. Ellenbogen's childhood and early adulthood. She comes across as a willful, headstrong person who sought solace more in her identity as a German than as a German Jew while the Nazi extermination of her family, friends, and countless others proceeded at a relentless pace. The book also introduces us to "The Bund", a hitherto unknown socialist anti-Nazi resistance movement based in Essen, Ms. Ellenbogen's birthplace, and describes how its members protected Ms. Ellenbogen during the two years she was in hiding towards the end of the Second World War. Professor Roseman also describes how other Germans, including some loyal Nazis, acted heroically to save Ms. Ellenbogen and to delay for nearly two years the eventual deportation of her family to Nazi concentration camps. We read eventually of her mundane life after the war in Great Britain, married to the Orthodox Jewish doctor who rescued her, keeping her tragic past hidden for decades to both family and friends.
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