Inherit the Truth 1939-1945: The Documented Experiences of a Survivor of Auschwitz and BelsenPaperback
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- Publisher: Giles De La Mare Publishers
- Format: Paperback | 184 pages
- Dimensions: 148mm x 230mm x 18mm | 340g
- Publication date: 15 April 1996
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 1900357011
- ISBN 13: 9781900357012
- Illustrations note: 42 b&w illustrations
- Sales rank: 176,052
This is the story of the destruction of a talented Jewish family, and of the survival against all the odds of two young sisters. It is one of the most moving stories to emerge from the Second World War. Anita and her elder sister Renate defied death at the hands of the Gestapo and the SS over a period of two and a half years when they were sucked into the whirlpool of Nazi mass extermination, being first imprisoned as 'criminals' and then being transferred, separately, to Auschwitz, and finally to Belsen when the Russians approached. They were saved by their exceptional courage, determination and ingenuity, and by several improbable strokes of luck. At Auschwitz, Anita escaped annihilation through her talents as a cellist when she was co-opted into the camp orchestra directed by Alma Rose, niece of Gustav Mahler. Her book is especially remarkable because of the many documents she has managed to preserve, most of them now lodged in the archives of the Imperial War Museum in London. In a sequence of family letters to her sister Marianne, who was marooned in England, from just before the war to 1942 when her parents were deported and liquidated, an atmosphere of happy normality gradually gives way to latent terror and foreboding. The appalling predicament of the Lasker family, and of Anita and Renate in particular when the rest of their relations had been deported and they were left totally alone in Breslau, could not be more poignantly conveyed. They were caught by the Gestapo trying to flee to Paris, and sent to prison: another piece of 'luck', as it turned out, since they were spared the worse horrors of Auschwitz for a crucial year. After the liberation of Belsen in April 1945, the correspondence with Marianne in England resumed. Anita was seconded to the British Army, and she quotes first-hand material about the early days of the occupation, including a transcript of part of the Luneburg trial in late 1945 when she gave evidence about Nazi atrocities at Auschwitz and Belsen, and was confronted in court by her tormentors. In 1946 she and Renate were both finally permitted to emigrate to England. Three years later, Anita became a founder member of the English Chamber Orchestra, in which she continued to play the cello until recently. Anita's book featured in BBC Radio 4's 'Desert Island Discs' programme on 25th August 1996. She had also told her story in a series of five BBC Radio 4 programmes in 1994; and a BBC 2 TV film about her experiences, Playing to Survive, was screened in October 1996.
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Anita Lasker-Wallfisch was brought up in Breslau, in Silesia, the daughter of a distinguished lawyer, Alfons Lasker, whose brother Edward became an American chess champion. At the age of thirteen she studied the cello with Leo Rostal in Berlin, until the 1938 Kristallnacht forced her to return home. After surviving the war, she managed to emigrate to England in 1946; and in 1949 she became a founder member of the English Chamber Orchestra, with which she still plays. She married Peter Wallfisch, the pianist, and has two children, Maya and Rafael, who is also a celebrated cellist.
Walter Laqueur, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, in Holocaust and Genocide Studies: 'It is my job...to read most of the current literature on the Holocaust, and if someone had the time and inclination to read only one book published recently, I would...choose without hesitation a small book [Inherit the Truth] which appeared last month in England...it is precisely as a historian that I recommend this account...' Sir Martin Gilbert in his Preface: 'Like so much in this book, the story of liberation brings a chill to the spine and the realization of the miracle of survival. Anita Lasker-Wallfisch has given an account which, in its personal immediacy, conveys many elements of the almost unconveyable.' Peter Lennon in the Guardian: 'There are the baleful routines of war, which we persuade ourselves we can just about cope with mentally, and then the obscene recesses of war featuring particularly perverse human behaviour which baffles us almost more than it appals. The Ladies' Orchestra, formed of Auschwitz inmates, set up by the Nazis to provide stirring music daily at the extermination camp, is one of those aberrations. When you meet someone who played in that orchestra, greedy curiosity prompts you to ask: "What was it like?" Then you panic in case they might actually be able to convey the experience to you. If anyone could, it would be Anita Lasker-Wallfisch...' In December 2002, the German Ambassador, Thomas Matussek, presented Anita Lasker-Wallfisch with the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and said this in his address, referring to her plea for understanding and tolerance between Britain and Germany, especially among young people: 'You overcame this natural hatred, this natural bitterness. In an extraordinary achievement, you have devoted your life to turning the most terrifying and traumatic personal experience into a universal message. It is a timeless appeal, to which we must listen and remind ourselves of over and over again.' Classical Music: '...a harrowing account of how a sixteen-year-old had survived enormous atrocities...due largely to her ability to play the cello.' Independent on Sunday: 'There was never any doubt about the alternative to playing in the orchestra. "I was once asked on Newsnight, 'How did you know that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz?' " She gestures to a building ten yards away. "They weren't exactly hidden. We saw the people going in and coming out as smoke"..."[The book] started with watching a TV documentary in 1985. My son said to me: 'Actually, you've never told us anything.' I decide to write down something strictly for my children." This narrative was shared with a wider audience when she was persuaded to give a series of radio talks and in turn led to her book.' Michael Kennedy in Sunday Telegraph: 'Books about the Holocaust have a numbing effect. How can anyone who was not there begin to comprehend the unspeakable horror of it all?...What is almost unbelievable is the resilience of the human spirit as exemplified by those who experienced Auschwitz and other camps. Two recent books, one by a victim, the other by a survivor [Anita Lasker-Wallfisch], add valuably to the documentation of a ghastly period in history.' Raphael Wallfisch, interviewed in the Sunday Times: 'The first time I noticed the number, 69388, on my mother's arm, I asked, as any young child would, what it was for. Her answer was that she had once been in prison, but she never invited any further comment...The history came out in bits and pieces...I knew that she played the cello in the Auschwitz orchestra, but never the fine details, until she wrote the book.'
Table of contents
Preface by Sir Martin Gilbert, 7; Acknowledgements, 9; List of Illustrations, 10; Key to Names, 12; Foreword, 13; Introduction, 15; 1 Pre-War Germany and the Kristallnacht, 17; 2 The Destruction of a Family, 21; Attempts to arrange emigration before the outbreak of war, 21; Family life after having to leave our home, 31; I go back to school, 34; Forced labour, 38; My parents are deported, 45; 3 Alone in Breslau with Renate, 48; 4 Convicted Criminals, 53; 5 'Voluntary' Transfer to Auschwitz, 68; 6 Music for the Inferno, 74; 7 From Hell to Hell: Our Miraculous Escape to Belsen, 87; 8 The Liberation of Belsen, 94; 9 Peace at Belsen: Secondment to the British Army, 101; Contact with Marianne, 101; Searching for a new life, 107; The traumas of achieving entry to England, 115; 10 Marooned in Brussels, 136; 11 The Boat Across the Channel, 142; Appendices; 1 Declaration of Possessions (Vermogenserklarung), 146; 2 Official German Documents Relating to the Seizure of the Lasker Family's Property in Breslau, 149; 3 Alma Rose in Auschwitz by Dr Margita Schwalbova, 153; 4 Transcript from the Official British Record of the Trial in Luneburg, 157; Index, 164.