Where Memory Leads

My Life

Publication Date: Nov 08, 2016

304 pp


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


List Price US $12.99
ISBN: 9781590518106

In this sequel to the classic work of Holocaust literature When Memory Comes, a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian returns to memoir to recount this tale of intellectual coming-of-age on three continents

Forty years after his acclaimed, poignant first memoir, Friedländer returns with When Memory Comes: My Life, bridging the gap between the ordeals of his childhood and his present-day towering reputation in the field of Holocaust studies. After abandoning his youthful conversion to Catholicism, he rediscovers his Jewish roots as a teenager and builds a new life in Israeli politics.

Friedländer’s initial loyalty to Israel turns into a lifelong fascination with Jewish life and history. He struggles to process the ubiquitous effects of European anti-Semitism while searching for a more measured approach to the Zionism that surrounds him. Friedländer goes on to spend his adulthood shuttling between Israel, Europe, and the United States, armed with his talent for language and an expansive intellect. His prestige inevitably throws him up against other intellectual heavyweights. In his early years in Israel, he rubs shoulders with the architects of the fledgling state and brilliant minds such as Gershom Sholem and Carlo Ginzburg, among others.

Most important, this memoir led Friedländer to reflect on the wrenching events that lead him to devote sixteen years of his life to writing his Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece, The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939–1945.

Excerpt from Where Memory Leads

“Dear Sir, when this letter will reach you, I will have left Paris for Palestine…” Thus began the letter I sent my guardian, Isidore Rosemblat, in the early days of June 1948. “You will probably be astonished, but don’t worry: I am with a group of Betarim [members of the right-wing Betar, the youth movement linked to Menachem Begin’s semi-clandestine Irgun], entirely safe. Mainly, don’t alert the police or any other organization of the same kind; it would only create additional problems and be of no help as, when you get this news, I will already be on the ship.

“Don’t worry about what my uncles may say as, before you even write to them, I shall be with them and I am sure that they won’t be terribly displeased.

“Let us now turn to concrete matters: I took with me, in my backpack, all my linen as well as my gray suit, my beige suit, and the leather jacket. Before leaving, I carried the yellow suitcase, the briefcase, and the textbooks to a friend who will return them to you as soon as possible.

“I must also ask you to send word to the lycée to inform them that I am leaving the establishment and that I am not presenting myself to the baccalauréat [the first part of the final high school exam, taken at the end of 11th grade]. Thus everything will be settled.

“I will send you a long letter as soon as I arrive; I would have liked to say good-bye and thank you in person for all you have done for me but I was worried about the possibility of some obstacle to my departure. In any case, don’t consider it as ingratitude on my part. While waiting to see you again in Palestine, I kiss you affectionately, Paul…”

Where Memory Leads describes in more prosaic, chronological form the itinerary of a historian whose life work has been to piece together an account of massive, state-sponsored crimes while making a place for the voices of those mercilessly persecuted…When Memory Comes was written in the key of memory, a register replete with sensation and emotion but that can offer no lessons. Where Memory Leads is written in the key of history, a register that moves from meaning to message. Here, the author is crystal clear. ‘The only lesson one could draw from the Shoah was precisely the imperative: stand against injustice.’ Obligation fulfilled.” —Wall Street Journal

History gives one kind of warning. But memory gives another, and this story of a small boy who lost his parents and spent the rest of his life trying to understand what had happened will not lose its importance any time soon.” —Financial Times

“Friedländer is an engaging writer and personality. This is an important book for readers interested in intellectual history and the history of Israel.” —Library Journal

“Haunting in scope and depth.” —Kirkus Reviews (Starred)

“A gripping, troubling narrative. The great historian of the Shoah talks about his life, about research and politics, about places (France, Israel, United States), and people. Page after page we feel we are getting closer to him. Then we suddenly realize how inscrutable an individual life is—to us, to the narrator himself.” —Carlo Ginzburg, Professor Emeritus at UCLA, and author of Threads and Traces: True, False, Fictive

“Orphan of the Shoah, Saul Friedländer became its most revered historian. His survival in a Catholic seminary, his vocation for the priesthood, and his rediscovery of Jewish identity are the subjects of his classic When Memory Comes. This new book recalls with equal sensitivity the quests of his subsequent life. Never sure to what ‘home’ he belonged, Friedländer spent years shuttling among universities in Switzerland, Israel, and California. Despite bouts of anxiety he crossed intellectual swords with some of his generation’s most redoubtable personalities. His attachment to Israel matches in intensity only his rejection of some its policies. There is never a dull page.” —Robert O. Paxton, professor emeritus at Columbia University

“In this engaging new memoir written forty years after his first one, Saul Friedländer examines the forces that propelled him from occupied France, where he spent World War II as a hidden Jewish child, into an active political life in Israel, which he managed to combine with a brilliant academic career in Europe and the United States. Where Memory Leads is an engrossing backward glance enriched with startling anecdotes and tender, poetic evocations of Paris in the fifties and Jerusalem of yesteryear.” —Anka Muhlstein, author of Monsieur Proust’s Library and Balzac’s Omelette

“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.

“The most creative and innovative scholar of the Holocaust, Saul Friedländer has written far more than a memoir. A haunting sequel to When Memory Comes, Where Memory Leads explores the very private and personal as well as scholarly and political sides of the author’s adult life. It shows Friedländer seemingly at home in many places and languages but ultimately as a Jewish outsider everywhere. Fascinating reading for anyone interested in intellectual life in exile, Holocaust scholarship, and Jewish identity.” –Christopher R.  Browning, Frank Porter Graham Professor of History Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill