Saul Friedländer translated from the French by Helen R. Lane

When Memory Comes

Publication Date: Nov 08, 2016

208 pp


List Price US $24.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25


List Price US $12.99
ISBN: 9781590518083

A classic of Holocaust literature, the eloquent, acclaimed memoir of childhood by a Pulitzer-winning historian, now reissued with a new preface

Four months before Hitler came to power, Saul Friedländer was born in Prague to a middle-class Jewish family. In 1939, seven-year-old Saul and his family were forced to flee to France, where they lived through the German Occupation, until his parents’ ill-fated attempt to flee to Switzerland. They were able to hide their son in a Roman Catholic seminary before being sent to Auschwitz where they were killed. After an imposed religious conversion, young Saul began training for priesthood. The birth of Israel prompted his discovery of his Jewish past and his true identity.

Friedländer brings his story movingly to life, shifting between his Israeli present and his European past with grace and restraint. His keen eye spares nothing, not even himself, as he explores the ways in which the loss of his parents, his conversion to Catholicism, and his deep-seated Jewish roots combined to shape him into the man he is today. Friedländer’s retrospective view of his journey of grief and self-discovery provides readers with a rare experience: a memoir of feeling with intellectual backbone, in equal measure tender and insightful.

Excerpt from When Memory Comes

By March 12, 1939, it had become blindingly clear, even to us, that Hitler would occupy Czecho-Slovakia (the hyphen marked the change that had taken place in six months) at any moment. My parents decided to flee across the Hungarian border by car.

All I remember of the first part of the journey is how uncomfortable I was on a back seat piled full of suitcases that left very little room. But I have not forgotten our arrival in Brno, a town in Moravia. We came out on a sort of esplanade. There loomed up before my eyes an enormous building, a city hall or a barracks: in front of the main door two sentinels wearing the helmet that is engraved on everyone’s memory. It was too late: the Germans were there already. For me, despite all the many events that were to follow, Hitler’s Reich is always summed up, in one first instant, by two motionless sentinels: not faces, but two helmets.

It was already dark when we got back to Prague. The sound of motors that pervaded the city shortly thereafter did not wake me up. In the morning, the only things to be seen on the streets and the quays of the Vltava were German uniforms. From our sixth floor, we could clearly see the single-seater fighter planes that skimmed the surface of the river and then suddenly veered upward to pass above the bridges. We would have to leave again—as soon as possible.

“Saul Friedländer is an engaging companion on this journey through the second half of the twentieth century. The people, situations, and events he encountered come vividly to life, though never far away are the memories of World War II that he has pondered throughout his remarkable career.”—Theodore K. Rabb, Emeritus Professor of History at Princeton U.

“Friedländer undertakes an evocative journey into his past that is likely to leave many a reader shaken.” —Amos Elon, New York Times Book Review

When Memory Comes is a small classic of Holocaust literature.” —Guardian, US

“A beautifully written (and beautifully translated) memoir of a tragic childhood.” —The New Yorker

“The most remarkable feature of When Memory Comes is its composure, an elegance that is unnerving. Friedländer describes his experiences in lean, graceful sentences; his language seems armored against the dissolution it describes.” —Leon Wieseltier, New York Review of Books