In 1939, Hertha Feiner sent her daughters Inge and Marion to Switzerland to escape the tightening Nazi vise in Berlin. Before Deportation compiles fifty-seven letters Feiner sent her to daughters between 1939 and 1942.
While Feiner was Jewish, her daughters' father, Johannes Asmus, was not, and was able to arrange for the daughters' transfer to a Swiss boarding school. Feiner's letters track her tireless efforts to maintain a bond with her children and to advise them as best she can under the circumstances. Her tone ranges from caring to authoritarian, from factual to sentimental, from hopeful to impatient and sometimes desperate. As her situation becomes increasingly dire, Feiner believes that to avoid her deportation, at least one of her daughters has to return to Berlin to live with her. Perhaps because of the intervention of Asmus and the girls' headmaster, Feiner's pleas go unanswered. A touching record of a mother's hope and despair, this memoir is both painful to read and impossible to put down.
About the Author
Hertha Feiner was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1896. She committed suicide in 1943 while being transported to Auschwitz.
Karl Heinz Jahnke is a professor of German history at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf.
Margot Bettauer Dembo has published seventeen translations and won the Goethe-Institut/Berlin Translator's Prize for 1994-95.
Table of Contents
1939: January 29 - December 27
1940: January 19 - November 16
1941: January 19 - December 29
1942: January 11 - December 17
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A somewhat unusual Holocaust book. Hertha Feiner was Jewish and lived in Berlin with her two daughters. To save the children from Nazi persecution, she and her Aryan ex-husband sent them a boarding school in Switzerland in 1939. Hertha never saw them again. She wrote them frequently, trying to provide a mother's love and guidance through the mail, but as the book reveals, her ex-husband and the boarding school staff often connived to make sure the girls didn't receive many of her letters, and also discouraged them from writing her back.As the situation becomes ever more desperate, and Hertha's attempts to leave the country come to nothing, you see her make veiled references to this in her letters. "Heinz left, but then he came back!" she writes. "It was a miracle. We don't know how it happened." Meaning: a friend of hers was picked up by the Gestapo, but then released, which is indeed amazing, since most people who get arrested by the Gestapo are never seen again. She writes that her "illness" is getting worse and she may need one of the girls to come live with her. Meaning: the persecutions against the Jews are horrible and she fears being deported, and she needs the protection of a half-Aryan daughter living in her household.Hertha was deported in early 1943. Knowing what her fate would be, she took poison en route to Auschwitz. I'm not sure how all these letters were saved, since it says her daughters never got some of them. This book is really not my kind of thing, but it does reveal a lot about German-Jewish life during this time period, as well as German-Jewish parenting. Certainly it is a worthy historical document.