“Terror Has No Diary: Annals of a Gay Jew and His Comrades Behind a Holy Wall in Nazi Europe” by Michael Melnick— Twelve Survivors

Melnick, Michael. “Terror Has No Diary: Annals of a Gay Jew and His Comrades Behind a Holy Wall in Nazi Europe”, Deer Mountain, 2013.

Twelve Survivors

Amos Lassen

Of the 7000 Jews who were living in the Baltic seaport of Libau (Liepaja), Latvia when the Germans invaded on June 21, 1941, only 200 remained alive when the city was liberated May 9,1945. Of these, maybe two dozen were hiding within Libau itself. This is about 12 of them. Eleven adults were in the care of Robert and Johanna Sedols who hid them in a cellar behind a false wall constructed with the bricks of the demolished Choral Synagogue. Then there was once child who was cared for by a widow, Otilija Schimelpfenig. She took him into the secure comfort of her home. For their courage and moral stature, the Sedols and Mrs. Schimelpfenig are memorialized as “Righteous Among the Nations” at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. How these twelve Jews arrived at their hiding places, and how they endured until liberation, is the remarkable story that is told here.

Because so little was known about those that perished, we often get stories of characters that are semi-drawn. That is not the case here. Writer Michael Melnick gives us a complex portrait of ordinary people in extreme circumstances in which we meet true heroes. We read of the e moral and emotional ambiguities of those hiding and those enabling them.

The diary of Kalman Linkimer is the compelling story of how 11 ordinary people survive the worst period in the history of the world by living in hiding in a cellar for 18 months.

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