cover image The Forger: An Extraordinary Story of Survival in Wartime Berlin

The Forger: An Extraordinary Story of Survival in Wartime Berlin

Cioma Schonhaus, , trans. from the German by Alan Bance, illus. by the author. . Da Capo, $23 (220pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-2058-3

This memoir of a Jewish man’s experience in wartime Berlin is less a tale of suffering than of courage. By 1942, Schönhaus’s family had been deported; the 20-year-old was spared because he worked in an arms factory. In that year, he began using his graphics background to forge IDs for Jews in hiding, and eventually went underground himself. His efforts, aided by anti-Nazi Germans, saved the lives of hundreds of Jews. He maintains a determined tone about the war—“At last, I didn’t have to just look on helplessly at what they were doing to us,” he writes about being asked to forge documents—but Schönhaus’s account has all the elements of a thriller. (In fact, Schönhaus’s story is being made into a film.) Despite the doom around him, he lives boldly, enjoying sailing escapades and sexual encounters with women, seemingly defying the Nazi authorities to find him until he flees over the border into Switzerland. While adding to our knowledge about wartime Berlin, this work also tells us something about how the human spirit can thrive amid destruction and tragedy. (Feb. 1)