Review of “Against Time: Letters from Nazi Germany, 1938-1939” from CHOICE, A Publication of the Association of College and Research LibrariesPosted: May 2, 2016
I am delighted that the following review appeared on May 1, 2016, in CHOICE, a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries.
AGAINST TIME: Letters from Nazi Germany, 1938-1939, by Francis W. Hoeber
Francis Hoeber possesses, apparently, decades’ worth of materials from his family’s history. However, he has chosen to publish only letters from 1938 and 1939, because they are truly exceptional in foregrounding human experience in the face of obliterating fascism. His father, Johannes, had emigrated from Germany in 1938, with the idea that Elfriede would follow with their young daughter. Complications arose. Eventually they united, lived in the US, and raised their family. That is a passive, objective summary. In contrast, these letters, written by two literate, gifted writers, construct a deeply experienced history entwined with significant world events. Genuine, emotional, human, rational—the letters exemplify precisely why published history needs such primary material. We can read or view synthesized historical accounts in textbooks or documentaries; we can summarize and categorize, intellectually. However, only by absorbing the personal narratives of people who recount the events they lived through can readers approximate the feelings, the vibrant presence, the individual acts that enliven historical experience. Through self-expressed microhistory, whether routine (running a business) or epochal (Kristallnacht), readers feel the macrohistory viscerally. Hoeber provides relevant context in footnotes and summaries to orient readers.
Summing up: Highly recommended.
–J. B. Wolford, University of Missouri—St. Louis
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Although Johannes and Elfriede Höber succeeded in escaping from Germany with their nine-year-old daughter Susanne before War War II, Elfriede’s mother, Clara Fischer, and her three brothers remained behind. In 1943, Düsseldorf, where Clara lived, was heavily bombed by United States and allied forces. This photograph was taken from the ruins of Clara’s apartment, showing the destruction of the city. Having lost everything, Clara fled with her two grandchildren to the comparative safety of a small town in the Alps, where she lived out the rest of the War.
This slip of paper was found in an old file belonging to Johannes and Elfriede Hoeber. Before they left Germany in 1939, they placed everything they owned in storage, including nearly a thousand books, antiques and irreplaceable historical documents. This paper was prepared on September 9, 1943 but probably did not reach Johannes and Elfriede until after World War II ended in 1945.
Translated into English, the memo reads as follows:
We hereby notify Dr. Elfriede Hober, nee Fischer, formerly residing at Pempelforterstrasse 11, Duesseldorf, that the furniture, furnishings, books, etc. stored with us were destroyed in the last terrorist attack on the night of 12 June 1943.