For those of you just joining me here, I am the daughter of a Holocaust refugee and I am about to publish Eva and Eve, a book that tells the story of how her family escaped from Nazi Austria in 1940. A peaceful childhood was interrupted when Hitler and his Nazi troops and Austrian supporters seized power in mid-March, 1938. As Arnold Schwarzenegger, another Austrian immigrant, so eloquently explained in the aftermath of the riots at the Capitol on January 6, it is immigrants from countries that have destroyed democracy who understand the value of what America offers, at its best.
My book is about a childhood lost, a family history found, and a reflection on what it means to lose home and create another. Almost everyone in this country is descended from immigrants. They have brought so much energy and determination and creativity and stories to tell. In my story you will also meet my father, now 95, a World War 2 vet who fought Nazis in General Patton’s Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge. His grandparents were immigrants from Ukraine.
Somehow, we all ended up in the publishing business. My parents were art directors at Simon & Schuster for over three decades. I am a designer, art director, and a writer. Generation three. And it looks like there might be generation four coming along now.
Books and paper figure in Eva and Eve as well. My mother always told us that her father’s life was saved because of a piece of paper packaging produced in his factory. I always wondered about that, and through research and some serendipity I cannot explain I was able to uncover the story of “the paper fan” my mother described.
The image here shows the Poesiealbum that I found in one of my mother’s drawers after she died. There are archives filled with these keepsake books, purchased by girls in Germany and Austria. The dates of the inscriptions inside are from the spring of 1938 —just after the Nazi takeover (Anschluss)—till the day before the family’s flight from Vienna in late March of 1940. When I first showed my father the book, he said he had never seen it before in 50 plus years of marriage. This keepsake book was my first clue to my mother’s hidden stories and became a quiet obsession. I will share some of the interior pages soon. In this book my mother was Eva, sometimes Evie. As an American citizen she changed her name to Eve. This subtle shift inspired the title of my book Eva and Eve: before and after. Stay safe everyone.