Synopses & Reviews
A tale of two journeys...
On May 13, 1939, the luxury liner SS St. Louis sailed away from Hamburg, Germany, bound for Havana, Cuba. On board were more than 900 Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany. But an indifferent world conspired against them. After being denied landing rights in Havana, the refugees were turned away by the United States and Canada and forced to sail back to Europe, where the gathering storm of the Holocaust awaited them.
Two of those refugees were Alex Goldschmidt, a sixty-year-old veteran of World War I, and his seventeen-year-old son Klaus Helmut Goldschmidt. After their trans-Atlantic voyage, they landed in France. They would spend the next three years in one French camp after another before being shipped to Auschwitz in 1942.
Sixty-nine years later, Martin Goldsmith, Alex's grandson and Helmut's nephew, retraced their sad journey. Beginning in lower Saxony where Alex was born, Martin spent six weeks on the road and covered more than 5,700 miles, setting foot on the earth Alex and Helmut trod during their final days. Alex's Wake is Martin's eyewitness report.
The book offers a compelling history of the voyage of the St. Louis, including testimony from those on board, a tale of espionage, and the brave resolve of Captain Gustav Schroeder. It also offers a harrowing chronicle of the vast network of camps in France, many of which were organized by the French themselves with little or no encouragement from the Germans.
But Alex's Wake is also a contemporary travelogue and a heartfelt memoir of a second-generation American Jew trying to make sense of his heritage and to escape the burden of guilt and fear he long thought was his sole inheritance. Setting forth with the irrational, impossible desire to save two members of his family who were murdered ten years before he was born, Goldsmith concludes his journey by coming home to a moving symbol of remembrance at one of the scenes of the crime.
From well-known classical music radio host and author of The Inextinguishable Symphony, Martin Goldsmith, a tale of two journeysand#151;one, a journey from the ill-fated voyage of the SS St. Louis in 1939 to the death camp at Auschwitz; the other, a grandsonand#8217;s journey of remembrance seventy years later.
is a tale of two parallel journeys undertaken seven decades apart. In the spring of 1939, Alex and Helmut Goldschmidt were two of more than 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany aboard the St. Louis
, and#147;the saddest ship afloatand#8221; (New York Times
). Turned away from Cuba, the United States, and Canada, the St. Louis
returned to Europe, a stark symbol of the worldand#8217;s indifference to the gathering Holocaust. The Goldschmidts disembarked in France, where they spent the next three years in six different camps before being shipped to their deaths in Auschwitz.
In the spring of 2011, Alexand#8217;s grandson, Martin Goldsmith, followed in his relativesand#8217; footsteps on a six-week journey of remembrance and hope, an irrational quest to reverse their fate and bring himself peace. Alexand#8217;s Wake movingly recounts the detailed histories of the two journeys, the witnesses Martin encounters for whom the events of the past are a vivid part of a living present, and an intimate, honest attempt to overcome a tormented family legacy.
About the Author
is the host and classical music programmer for Symphony Hall
on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and previously hosted NPRand#8217;s daily classical music program, Performance Today
, from 1989 to 1999. He is the author of The Inextinguishable Symphony
and lives in Maryland.