The Lost Café Schindler: One Family, Two Wars, and the Search for Truth

Norton. Oct. 2021. 400p. ISBN 9780393881622. $28.95. MEMOIR
By all accounts, Kurt Schindler was a charismatic swindler, a failed businessman who spent his adult life dragging himself and his family through debt and litigation. Upon his death in 2017, this memoir’s author—Kurt’s estranged daughter—discovered in his papers and scrapbooks some of the reasons for his erratic and unpredictable behavior, as well as a previously unknown and tragic family history. As assimilated Austrian Jews, the Schindler family ran a successful distillery and restaurant in Innsbruck, Austria, for decades before Hitler’s rise to power. Working outwards from personal memorabilia, and inwards from Austrian, German, and British archives, books, and museums, the author (an attorney by profession) builds a case that explores a past fraught with upheaval and sadness. The result is a skillfully crafted narrative interweaving one family’s story with larger events while also considering complex themes of memory, guilt, and accountability. The author’s fast-paced writing reads like a novel, and she includes family recipes and photographs that add a personal touch to an already intimate story.
VERDICT A must-read work of narrative nonfiction that’s highly recommended for readers of memoirs or 20th-century European history.
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