194pp. 6 halftones 6 x 9 © 2013
ISBN 978-0-9830807-4-9 Published April, 2013 Paper: $27.95

“We spied on our families, just like the Hitler Youth had exhorted us to do, but not to catch them in the midst of illicit or illegal acts. We had a different purpose: We wanted to keep our grown-ups alive and away from the police. This was not always easy.” — Elaine V. Siegel, from Chaos Unbound

Cover: Chaos Unbound

In 1925, Charlotte Resca, a German-Jewish girl of 18 years, was so enamored of her handsome German-Protestant fiancé that she followed him to America. There they would would marry and begin a new life. The marriage failed, but not before a daughter, Elaine, was born on December 29, 1928. In the summer of 1931, Charlotte, unaware of the horror soon to unfold, left her husband and returned to Berlin with her two-and-a-half-year-old Jewish daughter. Beautiful and ambitious, she would pursue a career in banking while her child was raised by the grandparents. Young Elaine would bond with her remarkable maternal grandmother, a midwife, herbal healer, and counselor of local renown, and grow up with an odd assortment of friends, neighbors, and relations, Jewish and Gentile, wealthy and impoverished, pro- and anti-Nazi.

There is drama in this memoir of a Jewish childhood in Nazi Berlin. The tightening grip of anti-Semitism, the transformation of local ne’er-do-wells into imperious Brownshirts, the marginalization and degradation of shopkeepers and merchants who resisted Nazi blandishments, and the visceral disgust of many Germans for Hitler — all are woven into a story whose very intimacy captures the largeness of its historical moment. It is especially the young Elaine‚Äôs clarity of vision — her keen understanding of what was happening around her and what was required to safeguard herself and “her adults” — that pulls the reader along in this gripping account of Jewish survival in the eye of the Nazi storm.

“Elaine Siegel presents us with the fascinating story of her survival as a Jewish child in Nazi Berlin. Full of detail and laced with pungent observations of the adults around her, Siegel’s memoir recreates the child’s view of, and emotional reactions to, the Nazi coming to power with astuteness and clarity.” — Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

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