Along with millions of lives, the Holocaust stripped away the official records and family mementos that anchor personal histories. In 1989, after both the opening of Czechoslovakia to the outside world and the death of her mother Frances, a concentration-camp survivor, journalist Helen Epstein made her first tentative efforts to uncover her own history. Armed only with a 12-page letter written by her mother, she retraced family footsteps from the provincial town of Brtnice to Vienna, where her great-grandmother Josephine had killed herself in despair. In Prague, her spirited grandmother Pepi, who had been orphaned at age 8 and left in poverty, rose from those ashes to run a fashionable dressmaking salon. Pepi married a man who repudiated Judaism so completely that their daughter Frances learned of her background only as the Nazis rose to power. Epstein's meticulous research beautifully conjures the drama of their lives and times, carving out the surrounding culture until these three women stand against it in stark relief.
From Library Journal
After the death of her mother, journalist and author Epstein (Joe Papp, LJ 4/15/94) decided to uncover her mother's past to learn more about her ancestors, who were victims of the Holocaust. After eight years of research throughout the United States, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Israel, Epstein brings us this account of Czechoslovak Jewry, chronicling the women in her family for three generations. Basing most of her research on a 12-page letter and an unpublished memoir written by her mother, Epstein traces her history by searching for information in archives and hunting down people who knew her family. Rich in detail, this work is told with a strong voice, and the result is a moving account of a family history and the strength of its women. Recommended for specialized collections, particularly those that focus on Jewish, Eastern European, Czech, and Holocaust studies.?Jill Jaracz, Chicago
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