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Refuge in Hell: How Berlin's Jewish Hospital Outlasted the Nazis Hardcover – September 17, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (September 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618251448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618251445
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,508,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Silver, a lawyer and former general counsel to the CIA, tells the astonishing story of Berlin's Jewish Hospital during WWII. For decades before the Nazis seized power in Germany, the hospital had served Berlin's Jews as their principal medical resource. At the war's end, it was still functioning, delivering what medical care it could and sheltering a large percentage of the city's few remaining Jews. Silver asks how a Jewish institution, located in the capital city of a regime dedicated above all to obliterating the Jews, could possibly have survived. To answer this question, Silver has gathered the available documentary evidence and interviewed the handful of hospital staffers still alive. According to these sources, the institution's survival hinged on an amalgam of factors, including sheer, blind luck and bureaucratic infighting among Nazi organizations. As Silver explains, the Nazis' bizarre system for classifying persons of partly Jewish ancestry played a role as well, since some hospital personnel with mixed ancestry were not treated with the same implacable hostility as full Jews were. Silver acknowledges where gaps in the evidence make certainty impossible, as in assessing Dr. Walter Lustig, the hospital's chief during the war years. Lustig may have been a betrayer and collaborator, as some staffers think, or he may have manipulated the system as best he could to save at least some Jews from destruction. The balanced analysis of Dr. Lustig's record typifies the author's careful use of evidence throughout this absorbing book.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

When Soviet troops liberated the Jewish Hospital in Berlin in April 1945, they found 800 Jewish doctors, nurses, and patients that had survived there during World War II. The hospital's director was Dr. Walter Lustig, a German-born Jew, who had been baptized and married an Aryan woman. His ties to the notorious Adolf Eichmann were the reason that the hospital remained open. Lustig compiled lists of Jews--both staff members and patients--for deportation to concentration camps. He was later executed by the Soviets, purportedly for collaborating with the Nazis. Much of the book centers on the complex character of Lustig and whether he should be lauded for keeping many of the Jews alive or condemned for sending many of them to their deaths. Silver was able to locate and interview a number of survivors. He also relied on the work of scholars who had researched the history of the hospital. The result is a graphic account of a little-known episode in the Holocaust. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This story is amazing. There are few history books that are compelling reads, but this one is. I could not put it down. Surprising details of Nazi Germany abound in the book, and ultimately one is left with an amazing story. Many explanations, none of which can fully explain this miracle.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The survival of the Jewish Hospital in Berlin through the Holocaust is an anomaly of history. It is surprising that Silver is the first to tackle this subject and fortunate that he does a masterful job. I recommend this book very highly. I read it by flashlight as we recover from the hurricane and it speaks highly for Silver's subject and writing style that I couldn't put the book down under difficult reading conditions. Silver's book treats a similar subject to the Invincible Symphony, the struggle to survive of the German Jewish orchestra. While Refuge in Hell is more of a history and the Invicible Symphony is more of a family memoir, both books are excellent treatments.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Daniel Silver�s book is meticulously researched, well written and in many ways awe-inspiring. He has preserved for all time, through personal interviews and an exhaustive review of historical documents housed all over the world, the unbelievable story of the only Jewish institution in Berlin to have made it through the Nazi regime relatively unscathed. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Holocaust and/or Germany!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Fair play suggests reading a book before purporting to review it, especially when that review is accompanied by an unfavorable rating. If Rivka Elkin had read Refuge in Hell before writing her review, she would have seen that the author does not claim to have done the first historical research on this subject. To the contrary, Mr. Silver pays tribute to the work done by Ms. Elkin and the authors of Zerstorte Fortschritte and acknowledges that their efforts established the basic historical record concerning the Berlin Jewish Hospital during the period 1938-1945. The only claim of uniqueness made for Refuge in Hell is that it is the first English-language book on the subject. The book's contribution is to have made this story available, in a readable style, to a general readership in the English-speaking world and to have added to the work done by Ms. Rivkin and other earlier researchers additional information based on survivor interviews and on documents that only became available in the course of the author's own research.
Like Ms. Rivkin, Ms. Opperman deals not with the actual content of Refuge in Hell (which she appears not to have read) but with loose characterizations about the book made by reviewers. The author is unlikely to have had any control over what these reviewers said. His work should be judged on its own merits.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Refuge in Hell is one of the most extraordinary books I've come across that describes the turmoil and bravery of so many people, mostly Jews, who worked at the Jewish Hospital in Berlin. The book has particular significance for me because my father was head of microbiology at the Hospital and was finally convinced to move the family in February 1939 before total Hell broke loose there. The book has so many facets to it, betrayals and at the same time certain loyalties by a number of non-Jews. At the same time, the graphic description of the horrors that took place, such as the random selection of those hospital workers who were destined to be shipped to the 'East', essentially with no advance notice, is chilling yet unfortunately ever so real. Many Jewish doctors were also picked by the Nazis as well to be shipped off to death camps. The main reason the Hospital survived is that it was used by the Nazis for having food prepared for those to be transported by rail car to the East as well as for treating German soldiers . The hospital was also a holding area for Jews who were to be rounded up for concentration camp as well as part of the hospital serving as a prison. The inhumanity of the Nazis is perhaps most graphically described when the Jewish doctor put in charge of the hospital was obliged to pick Jews to be shipped to concentration camps.Of course there are numerous events of betrayal amongst some of the workers and doctors, their marriages to one another, and in some cases, their escape to the underground. This is not a book for the weak at heart but one that is ever so revealing of just how cruel the world can be. For me and my family, who lived through Kristallnacht , I am grateful that my father finally left voluntarily in early 1939.Read more ›
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