From Things Lost
forgotten letters and the legacy of the holocaust
by Shirli Gilbert
In May 1933, a young man named Rudolf Schwab fled Nazi Germany. He eventually arrived in South Africa and years later resumed a relationship in letters with the Nazi who in many ways saved his life. Karl Kipfer was that Nazi. He encouraged Rudolf to leave Germany and after the war helped him recover the family’s property.
Shirli Gilbert takes readers on a journey through a family’s personal history where we learn about a cynical Karl who attempts to make amends for his “undemocratic past,” and a portrait of Rudolf holding together the fragile threads of his postwar existence.
The letters in From Things Lost act as a surrogate for the gravestones that did not exist and funerals that were never held. Readers of personal accounts of the Holocaust will be swept away by this intimate story.
Todd M. Endelman writes: Drawing on a recently discovered treasure trove of correspondence from the World War II era and beyond, Shirli Gilbert has written a psychologically nuanced account of a German Jew who fled Nazism and found refuge in South Africa. Her finely crafted book illuminates not only the stresses and strains of flight and resettlement in the 1930s and 1940s but also the inability of refugees from Nazism to ever escape the trauma of those years.
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