Escaping the Nazis: One Family’s Story

September 10, 2015

I’ve discovered that part of the art of promoting books is to post pictures of the large, rapt audience at the book launch. Last night I attended the launch celebration of a fine historical book, Against Time: Letters from Nazi Germany, 1938–1939, published by the American Philosophical Society. The audience was indeed enthusiastic and numerous—standing room only in a spacious hall! Here’s a photo from my point of view:

Hoeber Book Launch #1

As you can tell, I converted the standing room only into sitting-on-the-floor room only. The author, Francis W. Hoeber, was giving a spirited presentation from somewhere behind those heads.

The heart of the book is a collection of letters between Hoeber’s father, who escaped Nazi Germany in 1938, and his mother, who was trapped in Germany for another year with her young daughter. These letters, which Hoeber discovered accidentally in his mother’s file cabinet many decades later, form a moving and detailed view of daily life under the Nazis and the complicated maneuvers that people performed to escape persecution. It’s one Holocaust story with a happy ending, in that all the main characters survive. Hoeber adds his own lucid commentary, rich with historical and personal information. Most of all, the book is enlivened by the personalities that emerge from the letters, including his mother’s acerbic wit. If wit were only as lethal as guns, that lady could have defeated the Nazis by herself.

Since the author is a friend of a friend, I did summon the energy to stand up after a while to see him:


That’s Frank Hoeber at the lectern with an image of his father on the screen. The volume has a number of interesting photos and facsimiles, and it’s nicely designed and printed.

For anyone who’s interested, here are some links:

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