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A memoir of a family’s Holocaust complicity, with lessons for today

| Oct. 16, 2020

Those Who Forget: My Family’s Story in Nazi Europe – A Memoir, A History, A Warning
By Géraldine Schwarz
Translated from the French by Laura Marris

Géraldine Schwarz advertises her immensely powerful book, “Those Who Forget,” as “A Memoir, a History, a Warning.” It succeeds brilliantly in all three domains and has been rightly laureled in Europe, where it was published last year, for Schwarz’s use of her family’s tale to probe the broader “memory work” done (and not done) throughout Europe after the Holocaust. But Schwarz’s look at historical reckoning is most important — and will be read here in the United States, where it has finally arrived in English — as an urgent siren, flagging the dangers of creeping authoritarianism and the blowback that can occur when historic injustices are not aired and addressed.

Schwarz, a journalist born to a German father and French mother, makes two powerful, interwoven arguments. First, history is too often reduced to the story of victims and perpetrators, heroes and villains, when we have as much to learn from the actions and elaborate alibis of the “Mitlaüfer,” those who “followed the current” — people like her grandfather, a member of the National Socialist Party in Germany. He was not openly anti-Semitic, but he thought little of buying a business from Jewish owners forced to sell their company at a fraction of its worth, and he later reacted with indignation (“all our agreements were made in the most amicable way”) when the only surviving Jewish owner attempted to secure reparations.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Power, Samantha.“A memoir of a family’s Holocaust complicity, with lessons for today.” The Washington Post, October 16, 2020.

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