Sunday, January 8, 2012

The List

Right before Christmas I saw Martin Fletcher, foreign correspondent for NBC News, on the Today show discussing his new book, The List.  I was so struck by his story that I had to read the book.  If I recall correctly, he said that when his father died in 2005, Martin was clearing out his father's belongings and in a nightstand drawer he found a list.  As he studied it, he realized that it was a list of names of all of his father's family members who had disappeared during the Holocaust.   Every name had a line crossed through it.  On the other side of the piece of paper were listed all of Martin's mother's family members who had disappeared during the Holocaust.  I don't remember for sure, but I believe that there might have been one or two survivors on his mother's list, because I remember him saying that his father would put a check mark by the name if the person had survived.  I was especially struck by the thought of what it must have been like for Martin to have discovered this list and not realize that his father had been working on that list for the past sixty years.

The interview with Martin Fletcher was so interesting to listen to.  I felt like the interviewer didn't quite get it as they kept referring to it as a book about the Holocaust and Martin would correct them saying that the book was not about the Holocaust, it was about after the the time after the Holocaust affected people as they struggled to learn if family members had survived, where the family members might be, and trying to build new lives for themselves.  One reviewer wrote that she remembered her own family in London doing the same and it wasn't until 1971 that they learned what had become of the last family member that they were searching for.

As Martin researched for the book, he also discovered more information about a plot in London by Palestinian Jews to assassinate Britain's foreign minister, so he included that in the story, that added some very interesting history and suspense to the story.

The List, by Martin Fletcher, is a fictionalized novel based on his family's story, as they struggled to begin their new lives in London after World War II.  George and Edith were Austrian refugees living in London in 1945, awaiting the birth of their first child.  It was difficult for them to experience their great joy at bringing a new life into the world while they were vigilantly searching for word of what had become of their family members, learning of deaths of so many others.  They wondered how they were going to survive living in London where Georg could not find a job.  On top of that there appeared to be growing anti-Semitism in London, as servicemen returned and were unable to find jobs and housing, and the Jewish refugees were being blamed for taking jobs and housing away from them.

In the story, Edith's cousin, Anna, is located and comes to London to stay with Edith and Georg and begin her new life.  Anna had been with Edith's family when they were taken away by the Nazi's, and knew some of what had become of Edith's family.  She thought that perhaps Edith's father had survived the Holocaust, giving Edith great hope that perhaps her "Papi" was still alive. 

Meanwhile, Georg learned of the plot to assassinate the British foreign minister and struggled with wanting to stop the assassination, yet not betray the Jewish faction behind the plot. 

The story is heartbreaking and hopeful and inspiring.  It certainly made me think about what it must have been like, not knowing what had happened to family members.  And, sadly, that even now in 2012, there are still many people who have not been able to learn about what happened to their family.  Devastating.

The List is a very interesting, readable book that tells an important story that we all must learn and remember.

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