Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob

Norton. Feb. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780393245585. $26.95. HISTORY
In this debut, journalist Kaiser recounts undertaking the recovery of property lost to his family in the Holocaust, and reflects on what he hoped to find. His grandfather, who died before Kaiser was born, survived the Holocaust and resettled in Toronto. However, he was unable to reclaim ownership of an apartment building in Poland, leading Kaiser to take up the claim during a research fellowship in the country in 2010. In the process, he experiences the vagaries of the Polish legal system and the fraught history of Poles and Jews. His narrative describes his common interactions with residents of the town the building is in, as well as the uncommon ones with treasure hunters searching for a mythical train that is rumored to hold hundreds of pounds of gold hidden by Nazis in the nearby mountains. The treasure hunters believe Kaiser is the grandson of a man (with the same last name) who wrote about his slave laborers digging tunnels for the Nazis in these mountains. This coincidence leads him to another branch of living relatives. Occasional family photographs are an added bonus.
VERDICT This thoughtful and thought-provoking memoir of family secrets and family lore, like Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost, will appeal to readers of family histories.Shorto, Russell
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