The Berlin Shadow: Living with the Ghosts of the Kindertransport
“The writing is keenly observed and emotionally resonant. . . an impressive achievement given the breadth of its reach, from Berlin in the 1930s to Bethlehem today” — New York Times on Memory
“I am delighted that we have been able to acquire US rights to Jonathan Lichtenstein’s stunning memoir. I found the book mesmerizing. Each of the three strands of the author’s story is so compelling and propulsive, and he braids them together brilliantly. I was reminded of our own A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal as well as Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes. It’s simply a gorgeous book.” — Tracy Behar, Vice President, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of Little, Brown Spark
“As we wind backward through that ghoulish journey, we can feel the growing intimacy between father and son, acting as catharsis for not only the author, but also for readers. A unique and intimate addition to the literature about the Holocaust.” — Kirkus Review
“If you read one book this year, make it The Berlin Shadow. It is deeply moving, utterly compelling, touchingly funny and so beautifully written that at times it takes your breath away. It taught me so much about love, life, memory and time that I feel I have grown wiser and more appreciative of my own life because of it. I cannot praise this book enough. Every adjective I come up with falls short. Lichtenstein has a rare gift that I hope will be shared with readers all over the world.” — Santa Montefiore
“We were deeply moved and impressed by Jonathan Lichtenstein’s writing, by his honesty in letting us as readers participate in his family’s history, and how he gives us insight into his family’s history and his relationship with his father. This book is important both as a Holocaust memoir and as an account of the extraordinary relationship between a son and his father. How could someone left alone at such a young age provide a loving home for his kids? The book also makes a strong literary impact, and we were very impressed by the accomplished writing.” — Katharina Dittes, acquiring editor Suhrkamp Verlag
“The Berlin Shadow is an extraordinary reading experience [and] a serious candidate for this year’s best publication in translated literature […] The story of the father, Hans Lichtenstein, is gripping and heartbreaking in every way, but the book contains much more than that. It is also the story of the traumas that the persecution of the Jews inflicted on a child, and which for generations caused a family to inadvertently live for a long time in an unknown, inexplicable world full of concealment and unspoken losses. […] This odyssey back to the land of the past and childhood in Berlin has developed into a book of world literary scope […] It is an immensely beautiful book [The author’s] rendering of the dialogue between father and son on tour is Strindberg-like in all its might and dismissive absurdity. It’s top level literature. […] The Berlin Shadow contains a universal message. It should reach many readers.” — Jyllands-Posten
In 1939, Jonathan Lichtenstein’s father Hans escaped Nazi-occupied Berlin as a child refugee on the Kindertransport. Almost every member of his family died after Kristallnacht, and, arriving in England to make his way in the world alone, Hans turned his back on his German Jewish culture.
Growing up in post-war rural Wales where the conflict was never spoken of, Jonathan and his siblings were at a loss to understand their father’s relentless drive and erratic behaviour. As Hans enters old age, he and Jonathan set out to retrace his journey back to Berlin. This is a highly compelling account of a father and son’s attempt to emerge from the shadows of history.
For readers who enjoyed East West Street and The Hare with the Amber Eyes, The Berlin Shadow is a beautiful memoir whose themes – of family secrets, the trauma passed down through generations, and the relationship between adult children and parents in their twilight years – will resonate widely.
The book is also a celebration of the Kindertransport, an organised act of altruism – although realised amidst considerable domestic opposition at the time – that saved the lives of some 10,000 refugee children. Many of these children went on to make significant contributions in their adopted homeland and beyond (including, for example, four that became Nobel Prize winners). The book therefore offers an important and timely perspective on contemporary debates about immigration.
- A wonderful review in one of Denmark’s biggest newspapers, Jyllands-Posten, with rare 6 stars annotation