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The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by…

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million (2006)

by Daniel Mendelsohn

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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
  cavlibrary | Jan 28, 2014 |
"The Lost" goes on my "20 best books I have ever read" list. I will have to displace something else to put it there, but its depth and power demand a place.
Daniel Mendelsohn tells the story of his search for information regarding the fate of his great-uncle, and that uncle's wife and 4 daughters. The family knew that all 6 had perished in The Holocaust, but they had no details. They were not only lost to the family, but their humanity and their stories, were also "lost."
Mendelsohn sets out to find the facts about their deaths, and this books recounts that search. But it does very much more than that.
Constructed as a memoir, a detective story, a meditation on life and on the Torah, full of pain and life-altering coincidence, this book is a marvel. The writer's voice is compelling, and concrete, yet he deals in and with shadows, rumors, whispered confidences, secrets, lies and confusion.
Sorrow, loss, identity, grief and joy all comingle in this masterwork. Who are we? Who is our family? Where do we come from? How does our living and our dying impact our descendants? How can we recover those we have lost?
I could not put this book down. Page by page, chapter by chapter, Mendelsohn peels back layers of history and time, memory and forgetfulness, until at last we know what happened to the six. And in the process of following Mendelsohn's search, we ourselves are changed. ( )
2 vote Kathleen828 | Jun 23, 2013 |
I don't have the concentration for this now. I'll try again later.
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
I just couldn't do it. I know I'm supposed to be interested but...yaaaawwwnnnn. ( )
  RubyA | Mar 30, 2013 |
The Lost is an outstanding book that goes well beyond a family history. The extensive portrait of the extended Mendelsohn-Jäger clan living in Long Island and Florida can be at times a bit frightening to someone more used to nuclear families. This is a tale of large families (Daniel Mendelsohn himself has four siblings, one (Matt) contributing the photos of the book) living intimately together, with aunts, uncles and other relatives staying in for extended periods of time.

Woody Allen's portrait of a Holocaust obsessed New York Jew fits Mendelsohn to a T. Since his childhood, Daniel Mendelsohn had developed an odd obsession with genealogy, discovering the personal histories of his relatives impacted by the Holocaust. Linked to this is a creepy obsession of spending time in the company of old people, already as a teenager but also while traveling in Europe where he eschews visiting a city's highlights in order to score another interview with an often less than willing Holocaust survivor. His sightseeing is often marred by insufficient preparation. A simple Wikipedia search would have revealed that Theodor Herzl was buried in the Döbling cemetery not the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna. Vienna's Zentralfriedhof is lodged between the industrial zone, the airport and an oil refinery. No wonder that upstanding citizens such as Theodor Herzl did not want to be buried there. The Zentralfriedhof is almost situated in Vienna's equivalent of New Jersey. For marketing purposes, Vienna's administration reburied some of its heroes (such as Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven) in the Zentralfriedhof and even set up empty memorials for others (Mozart). Sometimes, the lack of a systematic approach is vexing. Serendipity often comes to the rescue.

The search quickly turns into a hunt, a mystery of a true crime. What had truly happened to Mendelsohn's grand-uncle and his daughters in 1941 and 1942? Mendelsohn unveils layer upon layer, giving faces and stories to name and places - a task better not left to the professionals: regarding his relatives, the database of Yad Vashem was filled with errors, partly due to the Galician-Polish-Ukrainian multi-linguistic environment. While the re-discovery of his relatives' life and death as well as the stories of the Holocaust survivors is a worthy endeavor in itself, Mendelsohn enriches it with a meditation and analysis of the first books of Moses. Jewish history as a tale of suffering starts early with God evicting and punishing the first humans and later wiping out most of humanity and nature in the flood. Sodom and Gomorrah only continues the story of a jealous and vengeful God. Even the God-fearing and righteous will suffer. Mendelsohn's research reveals quite a number of skeletons in the family closet. Reality is complex and non-fiction offers the best tales. Like an excellently choreographed firework, Mendelsohn's hunt pays off magnificiently, with tiny build-ups aggregating into big reveals. Given Goethe's Faust's famous agonizing over the correct translation of the first lines of Genesis, I found the discussion of its Hebrew translation issues (and its surprisingly frequent non-conventional approaches) very interesting. Another topic I have so much to learn about.

Where Mendelsohn's book could have benefited from was a more general introduction to the Eastern European area, recently labeled "Blood lands". Unfortunately for its inhabitants from Poland to Hungary to Austria to the Adria, the clashes through the centuries between the East and the West proved to be very bloody. Wiping out villages and cities used to be an all too familiar occurrence. Like Mendelsohn, I have often wondered why, for instance, the inhabitants of Hainburg, Austria, did not flee prior to the Turkish invasion of 1683. The Turks wiped out nearly all of the 8.000 inhabitants. Joseph Haydn's grand-father was one of the few survivors. While The Lost ultimately is a personal search for the history of his relatives and the Holocaust, a wider discussion of the violent nature of mankind would have been quite in order. The Holodomor, Stalin's starvation of millions of Ukrainians occurred just on the other side of the border from Bolechow. Since time immemorial, Eastern Europe has seen a lot of suffering (emigration has always been the best strategy). Homo homini lupus. Mendelsohn shies away from its full discussion and implication. This is especially bothersome in his mentioning of Abu Grhaib's "abuses said to have taken place". Call it torture and it is so amply documented that its denial or questioning is just sad. Together with mentioning Evian only as a mineral water, the continued whitewashing of US involvement in blocking Jewish emigration is not helpful in educating the next generation of Americans. Apart from this all too common blind spots, this is a spectacular achievement that is a fast-paced, revealing read. Highly recommended. ( )
  jcbrunner | Nov 30, 2012 |
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Daniel Mendelsohnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Frances Begley and Sarah Pettit
sunt lacrimae rerum
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Some time ago, when I was six or seven or eight years old, it would occasionally happen that I'd walk into a room and certain people would begin to cry.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060542993, Paperback)

Daniel Mendelsohn's The Lost is the deeply personal account of a search for one family among his larger family, the one barely spoken of, only to say they were "killed by the Nazis." Mendelsohn, even as a boy, was always the one interested in his family's history, but when he came upon a set of letters from his great uncle Schmiel, pleading for help from his American relatives as the Nazi grip on the lives of Jews in their Polish town became tighter and tighter, he set out to find what had happened to that lost family. The result is both memoir and history, an ambitious and gorgeously meditative detective story that takes him across the globe in search of the lost threads of these few almost forgotten lives.

A whole culture lies behind the story Mendelsohn tells, and a lifetime of reading as well. For our Grownup School feature, he has given us a tour of some of the books behind his own, in a list he calls 10 Great Novels of Family History, the Holocaust, New York Jewish Life (And Other Things That Helped Me Write My Book). And you can watch his own moving introduction to the book in this short video:

Watch Daniel Mendelsohn introduce The Lost: high bandwidth or low bandwidth

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:55 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The author describes how his family was haunted by the disappearance of six relatives during the Holocaust and how he embarked on a determined search to find the remaining eyewitnesses to his lost ancestors' fates.

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