Motherland: Beyond the Holocaust: A Daughter's Journey to Reclaim the Past

Fern Schumer Chapman, Author
Fern Schumer Chapman, Author Viking Books $23.95 (190p) ISBN 978-0-670-88105-5
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-14-028623-6
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4406-2835-1
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4406-1061-5
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 208 pages - 978-1-4406-1127-8
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When asked to accompany her mother on a return visit to her native Germany, Chapman jumped at the opportunity. At stake was a chance to reclaim both her ancestors and her own mother, Edith, whose past as a Holocaust escapee had created an emotional barrier between the two of them. ""She lost her childhood to the war,"" Chapman writes tenderly, ""and, in a way, I lost my childhood to her."" In 1938, at the age of 12, Edith's parents sent her from Stockstadt am Rhein to live in Chicago with relatives who treated her badly. Chapman, a former Chicago Tribune reporter, lovingly describes her scarred mother's decision to return to her hometown; the emotional catharsis and peace her return brings; and the various reactions her return engenders in the townspeople. (Some old classmates throw Edith a party, but others will not look at her.) Chapman's narrative is strongest when she writes as journalist rather than memoirist, letting the Germans speak for themselves. She introduces two gripping individuals: the town historian, Hans, who lives in remorse and humiliation because he failed to help Edith's mother; and Mina, Edith's family's maid and soul-sister, whose defiance and hatred of the Nazis raged in her until her death. Although at times Chapman's prose seems too sentimental, her report of a German town's reactions to a Holocaust survivor's return is moving and engrossing. (Apr.)
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