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Walking with Ghosts: A Jewish Childhood in Wartime Vienna 2nd Edition

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0820436920
ISBN-10: 0820436925
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Editorial Reviews

Review

«A wonderfully perceptive and detailed 'walk' into the past. Trahan's intelligence and humor create an exceptional picture of Jewish life in Vienna, always under the threat of Gestapo raids and deportations, and seen through the eyes of a young girl growing up.» (Geoffrey Hartman, Yale University)
«'Walking with Ghosts' presents a little-known variant on survival in the era of the Holocaust. Elizabeth Trahan describes what it meant to be a teenager living on the edge between legality and illegality in a constantly shrinking group of young people with the same fate and under the threat of death literally to the last minutes of the war. This panorama of a world unknown to many is an unforgettable memoir and an important historical document.» (Sigrid Bauschinger, University of Massachusetts)
«The book is very moving, exciting, sad, and yet uplifting, consoling - not only by its happy ending, but also because of its perspective and tone.» (Walter H. Sokel, Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia)
«I am reading your book and am impressed and touched...» (Elie Wiesel, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Boston University)
«This autobiographical narrative evokes the complexities, ironies, desperations and long drawn-out sufferings of those who existed at the margins of the Nazi terror - 'foreign Jews' and 'half-Jews' whom the regime trapped more gradually. ...What makes this book valuable is the sober honesty with which it tries to probe the ghosts of the past for a shadow of final truth.» (Kristin Herzog, Newsletter, Independent Scholars' Association, North Carolina Triangle)
«This remarkable memoir is an astounding document to round out our knowledge of the Holocaust years by one of a handful of Jews who spent the war years in Vienna and survived. ... The contrast between the sheer youthful desire to live and the reality of danger, war and devastation is rendered simply and perceptively. There is much for the reader to learn about a special time and place and about what it is like to be young.» (Erika Bourguignon, The Antioch Review)

From the Publisher

During a walk to town, Elizabeth Welt Trahan allows the memories of her childhood to surface after more than a half century-first in short, disconnected snippets but then more and more insistently, until she is pulled back into the nightmarish world of Hitler's Vienna where, being Jewish, she barely survived. But this is also the story of the maturing process of a young girl during those shattering times. Despite an aloof and insensitive father, a circle of friends that is continually decimated by deportations, and the abrupt ending of a timid first love relationship, she is able to draw strength from the trivial and small pleasures of daily living.
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Product Details

  • Series: Literature and the Sciences of Man (Book 17)
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers; 2 edition (April 20, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820436925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820436920
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,033,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
What I liked so much about the book is that it combines the best of journalism -- that of a vivid eyewitness account of unusual and often highly dramatic events -- with the best of literary writing, as a complex, engrossing, and beautifully written work. On New Year's Eve 1939, the teenage narrator is sent to her father in Vienna by the grandparents who have raised her, so that they can emigrate together. They do not succeed until she leaves, alone, in 1947, and the book describes her life during those eight years. Though it is a Holocaust account, I found the book not only gripping but almost uplifting. The narrator is Jewish but does not wear the star, and so she is both victim and bystander in the nightmarish world of Hitler's wartime Vienna. She describes persecutions, deprivations, and bomb attacks from this dual perspective, and finally also the battle for Vienna and the Russian occupation. Initially, she is a typical 15-year-old, sensitive and naïve, unselfish and self-absorbed, timid and reckless. What saves her seems to be her instinctive craving to "have a life", as she painfully and pluckily clings to the trivia of a "normal" existence even during those abnormal times. Thus she emerges at 23 -- or, at any rate, some fifty years later when she narrates the book -- as a sane, well-adjusted and life-affirming human being. The book is, at least in my view, superior to many other Holocaust memoirs because of the skill with which the author -- a professor of literature -- explores past and present, interweaving the eyewitness account of the participant teenage girl (authenticated by many direct diary quotes) and the observations of her adult self, which, half a century later, not only situates her childhood in the relevant historical context, but also analyzes her youthful self dispassionately, even critically, and thereby draws a complex and thought-provoking portrait of at least one survivor's mentality.
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