And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain: The Heartbreaking True Story of a Family Torn Apart by War

Elisabeth Åsbrink, trans. from the Swedish by Saskia Vogel. Other Press, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59051-917-2
Journalist Åsbrink (1947: Where Now Begins) sets one family’s Holocaust tragedy against the legacy of WWII in Sweden in this multilayered history based on hundreds of letters between a young refugee and his parents back in Vienna. Opening with Hitler’s 1938 annexation of Austria, Åsbrink documents the closing of the Swedish border to “non-Aryan” refugees, and efforts by the Church of Sweden to help Jewish converts to Christianity escape Nazi Germany. In 1939, Josef and Elise Ullmann arranged for their only son, Otto, to be baptized and sent to a children’s home in Sweden until they could be reunited. Åsbrink quotes extensively from the family’s correspondence, revealing Otto’s homesickness and his parents’ anguish as they’re denied emigration papers, evicted from their home, and deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto. Meanwhile, Otto gets placed on a farm owned by the father of future IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad. Åsbrink’s investigation into Kamprad’s pro-Nazi activities during the same period he befriended and worked alongside Otto raises more questions than it answers, though she carefully documents the influence of anti-Semitism and xenophobia on Sweden’s immigration policies. This devastating account has the lyricism and complexity of a finely wrought novel. Agent: Magdalena Hedlund, Hedlund Agency. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 01/23/2020
Release date: 01/21/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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