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The author writes: "I am the child of a woman who survived the Holocaust not by the skin of her teeth but heroically . . . This book tells the story of her dramatic life before, during and after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940." Hilde Jacobsthal was born in Berlin and arrived in the Netherlands as a young child. She was fifteen when the Nazis invaded, and when Jewish students were forbidden to attend Dutch schools, she trained and worked as a day care nurse. Thus began her long association with the Underground, helping to save Jewish children when they came to the deportation point. She fled to Belgium after the deportation of her parents in 1943, and spent a year in hiding under a false identity, while continuing her work in the Resistance. After she was liberated by the American army in 1944, she joined the British Red Cross and found herself at Bergen-Belsen a week after British forces arrived in April 1945. She had hoped to find her parents there, but learned, eventually, that they had perished at Auschwitz. She was one of the first people to tell Otto Frank that Anne and Margot Frank had died at Bergen-Belsen; much later, Otto asked her opinion about publishing Anne's diary. In Bergen-Belsen she met her future husband, Max Goldberg, a camp doctor, and together they went as a medical team to take part in Israel's War of Independence where he was badly wounded.
Dr Goldberg argues that Samuel Richardson had expressed a powerful and hitherto unperceived sexual mythology in Clarissa, making it the popular masterpiece it quickly became. There had never before been a work of literature in which the rape of a woman became the moral indictment of an age. Clarissa was a book which changed minds. It is not surprising that Diderot, the French philosophe, drew on Richardson as the inspiration for his own novel, La Religieuse. Richardson's novels had achieved Diderot's declared aim as editor of the great Encyclopedie: to change the way people think. For both writers it had become clear that the boudoir had replaced the Puritan closet and the Catholic confessional as the location for tests of virtue. Dr Goldberg offers an original, comparative reading of the works of these French and English innovators. She leaves us in little doubt that our understanding of what it means to be a woman in our culture owes much to the turbulent world of Richardson and Diderot.
"I am the child of a woman who survived the Holocaust not by the skin of her teeth but heroically," writes Rita Goldberg. In a deeply moving second-generation Holocaust memoir, Goldberg introduces the extraordinary story of Hilde Jacobsthal, a close friend of Anne Frank's family who was fifteen when the Nazis invaded Holland. After the arrest of her parents in 1943, Hilde fled to Belgium, living out the war years in an extraordinary set of circumstances among the Resistance and at Bergen-Belsen after its liberation that the Guardian newspaper judged "worthy of a film script." As astonishing as Hilde's story is, Rita herself emerges as the central, fascinating character in this utterly unique account. Proud of her mother and yet struggling to forge an identity in the shadow of such heroic accomplishments (in a family setting that included close relationships with the iconic Frank family), Rita Goldberg reveals a little-explored aspect of Holocaust survival: the often-wrenching family and interpersonal struggles of the children and grandchildren whose own lives are haunted by historic tragedy. Motherland is the culmination of a lifetime of reflection and a decade of research. It is an epic story of survival, adventure, and new life.
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