cover image Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure

Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure

Menachem Kaiser. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-328-50803-4

Kaiser debuts with a spellbinding account of his quest to reclaim an apartment building that was once owned by his grandfather but taken from him by the Nazis. Kaiser is frank about the context of his reclamation. For starters, he’d never met his grandfather. But after a visit to Sosnowiec, Poland, in 2015, Kaiser took it upon himself to repossess the property his family lost during the Holocaust. Hiring a lawyer (called “The Killer”) to represent him, Kaiser set out on a twisty path as shocking information on his lineage came to light—namely, that his grandfather’s cousin, Abraham Kajzer, wrote a secret memoir while working as a slave laborer on the Nazi’s mysterious Riese project. This revelation caught the attention of a group of eccentric Silesian treasure hunters who believed Kaiser was Abraham’s own grandson, suddenly turning him into a pseudo-celebrity. Meanwhile, the complicated legacy of WWII haunts Kaiser: the people who lived in his grandfather’s building “benefited from the wholesale murder of my family,” he writes. (“Let’s embrace the stereotypes, I’ll be the Jew coming back for his property and you be the fearful Pole.”) Yet at the same time, he wonders if, by upending people’s lives with his claim, he’s complicit in the problem, too. Superbly written, this page-turner reads like a gripping adventure novel. Agent: Janet Silver, Aevitas Creative Management. (Mar.)