My book Tales of Loving and Leaving (AuthorHouse 2016) tells the history of members of my family who were refugees from, and victims of, Nazism. You can order the book from the publisher AuthorHouse by clicking here and from Amazon by clicking here
The book focuses on three people whose lives were profoundly affected by the great movements and ‘isms’ of the twentieth century: not only Nazism, but the Russian Revolution, rise and fall of Communism, scientific, technological and artistic change, displacement and migration following World War II, and the Cold War.
Amalia Moszkowicz Dinger, my maternal grandmother, started out in life in 1873 in Brody in Galicia in what is now the Ukraine, moved to Vienna with her husband where she lived for the next forty years and had nine children six of who survived to adulthood and four, into the post-war period. Amalia was murdered in Treblinka at the age of 69.
Uszer Frucht, my father, was born in Lodz in Poland in 1900, was a revolutionary socialist and Communist all his life, and fled to Belgium in 1923 primarily to avoid military service. He worked as a coal miner in the Charleroi area, married and had a family there, continued his commitment to revolutionary politics and was expelled from Belgium in 1938. After a number of escapades, he arrived illegally in London in 1938, avoided immediate deportation due to the start of the war, joined a Yiddish theatre group and met Steffi Dinger with whom he had a child (me). At the end of the war, finding his first family alive, he travelled several times to Belgium and was eventually expelled from Britain. He returned to Brussels and lived into his 81st year there with his ‘first family’ although entered Britain illegally on a number of occasions and retained the life-long affections of his ‘second’ wife if not his youngest daughter. It was only when he gained Belgian citizenship at the age of 74 that he was finally safe from deportation.
Stefanie (Steffi) Dinger, my mother, was born in Vienna in 1903, faced starvation during World War I, relative prosperity in her 20s and 30s and then exile and separation from much of her family and a fiancé, as the Nazis swept to power into Austria in 1938. She escaped with two sisters to London just before the war started, met Uszer Frucht and had a daughter, and following his expulsion, sought to make a life for herself as a single mother at a time when illegitimacy and single parenthood were highly stigmatised. How she dealt with this forms the basis of several chapters in the book. She faced hostility from MI5 and the security services following her (unsuccessful) attempts to gain British citizenship. She eventually attained respectability as a member of the local community if not as a British citizen.
The stories, told in chronological ‘slices’, are somewhat different from those offered in other versions of the Jewish Holocaust experience – in two ways in particular. They are about ‘ordinary’ people who were rendered extraordinary by the period through which they lived; and they focus on the treatment and experiences of Jewish immigrants before, during and after the War in different countries, and the impact of their politics on others. By recounting the stories of these individuals, I show the effects of separation and trauma, but also how human beings when confronted with horror respond, get on with life, go on to make different futures and seek to be ordinary again. Becoming ‘ordinary’ in a new country is the aim of most refugees, and it certainly was in these three cases. The stories recounted here also show how, following the impact of the Nazi-led genocide, myths were created, secrets were perpetuated, lies were told, shelter was found, futures were shaped and hope was rekindled.
Reviews of the Book:
Interview (2) Isaac, aged 10, does a 7 minute interview with his grandma about her new book: click here
Additionally below are video clips, papers and PowerPoint presentations covering various areas of my research for the book
(1) Grandmother’s story. Title: ZyclonB Crystals (film by Sue Davidson) Click here
(2) Mother’s Story. Title: My Incredible Jewish Mother (film by Sue Davidson) Click here