In a gripping exchange of letters written in the closing years of the 20th century, two men linked by history though separated by time and space struggle to come to terms with the signal event of their time, the Holocaust. Both men were born in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany - Paul Friedhoff in 1907, Dr. Emil Georg Sold in 1920. Both witnessed many of the same political and social changes of the first part of the century. But their perspectives were entirely different. Sold was a Catholic and served in the Wehrmacht during World War II. Friedhoff, a Jew, escaped from Hitler's Germany and fled to the United States. The two men never met. In 1934, sensing the course that Germany would take with Hitler, Friedhoff convinced his family to leave the small town where they had spent their lives. Subsequently, he helped over three hundred Jews get out of Germany. After the war, Emil Sold practised medicine, but the Hitler years continued to trouble him. He spent much of his later years trying to promote understanding between peoples and religions, and he has lectured, erected memorials, and written books in an attempt to atone for a national history that gnawed at him personally. It was his book on the Jews of Schifferstadt, a town in the Rhineland-Palatinate, that led to the first contact between the two men. Friedhoff received the book from a bank in Schifferstadt, and when he responded with comments on the book, the bank forwarded the letter to Sold. A half-century after circumstances had placed them in different worlds, the two suddenly found themselves in a correspondence that covered the many issues surrounding that earlier time, and in particular the many issues surrounding the Holocaust-racism, hatred, religion, philosophy, government, and education. Their discussions often lead to conflict and only sometimes end in resolution, for theirs is not a genteel rehashing of generally accepted views of human rights. Rather, Sold and Friedhoff tackle difficult issues and do not blunt their arguments for fear of offending the other. Their candour exposes the true complexity of their subject. Sold admits that he had never talked to a Jew until 1978, and yet he discovers years later that his daughter has married someone of Jewish descent. Friedhoff acknowledges that he had once been a proud German-recalling how during the First World War his father had hung the national flag out the window whenever the Germans captured a Russian city-though he abandoned his German identity the day he dropped his bags on American soil. Despite the obstacle of never having seen one another, the two become very good friends, and the correspondence becomes an integral part of their lives. In remembering and attempting to understand the Holocaust, Friedhoff and Sold hope to save future generations from enduring what their generation has endured. And in that way, their letters are not so much about the past as they are about the future.
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Weight: 553 g
Dimensions: 228 x 154 x 23 mm
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