Endpapers: A Family Story of Books, War, Escape, and Home

Atlantic Monthly. Mar. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780802158253. $26. BIOG
Longtime Sports Illustrated writer Wolff (The Audacity of Hoop) presents a dual biography of his grandfather Kurt Wolff (1887–1963) and his father Nikolaus (“Nico”) Wolff (1921–2007), whose Jewish heritage uprooted their lives in Nazi Germany. Kurt was a successful publisher who fled Germany in 1933 with his second wife, Helen, and who together escaped to the United States in 1941. Although part Jewish, Nico remained in Germany with his mother and stepfather, becoming a mechanic in Hitler’s Wehrmacht. Stories of Kurt fleeing from Nazi-controlled France and Nico’s tour on the eastern front are engrossing. Once settled in the U.S., Kurt founded Pantheon Books, while Nico, who joined his father in 1948, earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Princeton. Both men enjoyed good lives afforded them by U.S. citizenship. The author delves deeply into his ancestry to unravel the complex stories of his multigenerational family, and to show how his father’s and grandfather’s traumatic lives affected him. The author was drawn to sports as a teen in an attempt to become Americanized in a way Kurt and Nico couldn’t.
VERDICT Overall, this fascinating, sometimes brutal, and in a few minor instances, rambling narrative will grasp the attention of readers interested in the Holocaust and modern German history.
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