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A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz

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Language  Swedish
Author  Göran Rosenberg
Published  2012
3.8/5 Goodreads

Awards  August Prize of 2012
Copyright date  2014
Country  Sweden
A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz t3gstaticcomimagesqtbnANd9GcRpvb30jZilTOlTIu
Original title  Ett kort uppehåll på vägen från Auschwitz
Similar  Livets ax, Synden, Berömda män som varit i Sun, The Emperor of Lies, Den amerikanska flickan

A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz (Swedish: Ett kort uppehåll på vägen från Auschwitz) is a 2012 book by Jewish author Göran Rosenberg, variously described as a novel and a non-fiction narrative book.

Contents

As of 2014, the book has been translated into nine languages and sold more than 200,000 copies.

It won the August Prize in 2012 and the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger in 2014.

Synopsis

The book starts with a chapter called "The Place" in which, on the 2nd of August 1947, a 24-year-old man arrives via train at the industrial town of Södertälje. He starts working at a lorry factory. Soon after a woman which the author refers to as my future mother joins the man. Originally from Łódź, Poland, the man and woman had started a relationship in the Łódź Ghetto, then been separated in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1944 and reunited in Alingsås before moving to Södertälje. They get an apartment and give birth to a child; the latter is the author, who refers to himself as "the child". They name him Göran, the most common name in Sweden, after a grandfather, Gershon, and they start speaking to each other in Swedish to make him fit into the place. The chapter further focuses on "The Child"s experience in Södermanland, which mostly is positive. He learns to downplay his foreign background, and in one place, he writes with regard to one of his teachers, "I never let Mr. Winqvist find out that I knew a few words of Yiddish".

The next chapters, called "The Wall", "The Carousel" and "The Road", tell the experience the man had in Auschwitz, as imagined by the author, in addition to the man's prior life in Poland, and general stories from Poland and Sweden during World War II. It ends with the man, now named as David Rosenberg, arriving in Malmö on 18 July 1945. The chapter "The Stop", which tells about David Rosenberg's first time in Sweden as well the story of the woman, Hala Staw during the war and afterwards in Poland. She arrives in Sweden in August 1946.

David travels to Łódź in 1958 and stays for three weeks, but finds the city depressing. He unsuccessfully seeks for the graves of his father and other family members.

In 1956, David applies to Germany for economic compensation, and is examined by Herbert Lindenbaum, a doctor representing Germany. The doctor partly doubts the veracity of David's claim, and partly claims he is exaggerating his psychological problems. He describes Rosenberg as suffering from rentenneurose; sickness motivated by the wish for insurance benefits and the application is declined. He makes a new application and in the following years several doctors, many saying that his ability to work is reduced with 60% due to psychological illness that can be related to the wartime experiences. A new doctor representing Germany, Herbert Lebram, concludes that his ability to work has been permanently reduced by 20%. On this basis, the application was again declined, as compensations required minimum 25% reduction of working ability.

Meanwhile, the health of David Rosenberg has deteriorated. He is on sick leave from his work due to depression from December 1959.

In April 1960, he becomes a patient at Sundby hospital in Strängnäs where he is treated for depression. He is given electroshock and medications. On 22 July, 1960, he commits suicide by drowning in a nearby lake.

In a short afterword, Göran Rosenberg tells about his work writing the book.

Background, analysis and reviews

While the book in Sweden was published as a novel, it has in other countries been described as a non-fiction memoir. The book is based on the author's memories as well as the memories of his mother Hala Rosenberg, sister Lillian Rosenberg-Roth and his cousins. Family members also provided documentations. Letters exchanged between the parents while Hala was in Poland and David in Sweden is an important background material, as is other family letters, including from Göran as child. A few family photos are included, including one of Göran as a toddler with both his parents in front of an apartment building which is used on the cover. The book also makes use of medical records. In addition he uses Swedish and foreign public sources, like books and old newspapers. As part of preparation for the book, Rosenberg traveled to Germany and Poland.

The story of his parents is seen through the eyes of the author, who refers to himself as "The Child". Reviewers has described the book as just as much about the author Göran Rosenberg as about his father

Some reviewers draws parallels between the skepticism and sometimes xenophobia that David Rosenberg experienced with the experience of refugees in contemporary Sweden and Europe.

The book received many positive reviews. Writing in the Financial Times Philippe Sands describes the book as "a towering and wondrous work about memory and experience, exquisitely crafted, beautifully written, humane, generous, devastating, yet somehow also hopeful". Hester Vaizey in The Independent found the story

utterly unforgettable, breathing life into the painful experiences of a couple who, like many other displaced Jews in Europe at the end of World War Two, were intent on making a success of survival after the world had turned its back on them. It is a chilling reminder of how the consequences of war long outlived the ceasefire.

In a more critical review, Thomas Harding in the The Statesman sees the book as a non-fiction narrative book and finds that it relies too much on speculations. He writes that "Rosenberg's assertion of authorial integrity at the beginning of the book is undermined throughout. He does speculate; and then goes further, reproducing a novelist's description of life in a cattle cart, thus stepping into the world of fiction".

References

A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz Wikipedia


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