HISTORY

The Unanswered Letter: One Holocaust Family’s Desperate Plea for Help

Regnery. Sept. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9781684510177. $29.99. HIST
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Twenty years ago, a letter arrived at journalist Cassell’s home. Its author, writing some 60 years earlier, spoke with such urgency and humanity, the journalist could not avoid its call. In 1939, Alfred Berger launched a desperate plea from Vienna to an unknown Berger in California; the letter was a last hope for sponsorship and potential immigration to the United States in order to escape Nazi persecution. Driven to find what became of the Viennese Berger family, Cassell embarked on a wrenching and achingly poignant story of resiliency, hope, and the strength of family up against unthinkable horror. What results is an expertly researched and intimately fleshed-out contextualization detailing not only the incremental progression of how evil unfolds, but how individuals and families attempt to cope amid such catastrophic events. Cassell takes care to retain the letter’s original conversation and tone, and the wavering hope and despair among this devastating historical backdrop.
VERDICT A crushing but nonetheless important read chronicling firsthand perspectives and experiences of a lost family miraculously brought to life. Highly recommended as a respectfully told, exhaustively researched, and ceaselessly alarming call to attention.

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