The List by Martin Fletcher; Thomas Dunne Books; Reprint edition (October 11, 2011)
Having spent most of my adult life with my head in the sand regarding the Holocaust, I eventually focused on learning what led to this horrible period and what happened to Jews during the war, but not the time after the war. I occasionally mused on what it must have been like for those who survived the camps and those who escaped before the war and worried of the fate of their dear ones.
Fletcher’s The List takes you into that time. It looks into the lives of a few Jewish refugees in England and Palestine after the war. Mr. Fletcher’s novel is based on real events in 1945-46 experienced by people like his parents, George and Edith Fleischer. While not their story, the main characters are, fittingly, a couple named George and Edith Fleischer.
In London, George and Edith experienced culture shock and joined a rapidly evolving subculture of European Jewish refugees. They lived in agony, worrying for missing family who disappeared. George maintains the tear-stained list of their missing family members, suffering as news leads him to cross out names. Edith’s Cousin Anna, indelibly damaged by her time in Auschwitz, finds and joins them in London. Her story in London, but not Auschwitz, is told.
The List portrays the everyday challenges and suffering of these strangers in a strange land. Beyond those, it tells of the threat of an ultimately unsuccessful but terrifying London movement to send Jewish refugees “home” in order to free space and jobs for returning soldiers.
The List draws the contrast between these Jews in England and those in Palestine. The Jewish refugees in London were trying to blend in, take English names and become English. In Palestine, an ultra-Zionist group employed extreme violence to force the British to raise or eliminate quotas on Jews immigrating to Palestine or to force the British to leave Palestine and let the Jews and Arabs fight it out. The List shows the irrationality of Britain’s policies in Palestine and the disparity of the response of various Jewish communities.
I recommend reading The List to understand Jewish post-war London from the perspective of those refugees who were fortunate enough to get there. Some portions will be difficult for those who were refugees or their children.
The List recalled a document that my cousin Gerald Stern in England sent me. It was issued by The German Jewish Aid Committee in conjunction with The Jewish Board of Deputies to Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Europe. It brings a stark reality to the book’s story. Here is the cover:
It’s in English and German and has the following sections:
· ORGANIZATIONS Useful for our Visitors
· HOW TO REGISTER with your Local Police
· The TOLERANCE AND SYMPATHY of Britain and the British Commonwealth
· WORK WHICH IS ALLOWED and WORK WHICH IS NOT ALLOWED
· BRITISH MONEY – WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
You can read it here