“House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family” by Hadley Freeman— A Family’s History

Freeman, Hadley. “House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family” ,  Simon & Schuster, 2020

A Family’s History

Amos Lassen

Hadley Freeman’s “House of Glass” is a story that spans a century, two World Wars and three generations. Freeman knew that her grandmother Sara lived in France just as Hitler began his rise power, but no one in her family spoke about it. After her grandmother’s death, she found a shoebox tucked in the closet with photographs of her grandmother and a mysterious stranger, a strange telegram from the Red Cross and a drawing signed by Picasso.

Her curiosity got the best of her and she began a ten year journey to try to found out what the contents of the shoebox meant. She went to the Picasso archives in Paris, to a secret room in a farmhouse in Auvergne, to Long Island and to Auschwitz piecing together family’s past and learning more about the lives of her grandmother and her three brothers, Jacques, Henri, and Alex. Their stories  were sometimes typical and sometimes surprising as they revealed the spectrum  of experiences of Eastern European Jews during Holocaust.

The stories were filled with twists and turns and fascinating characters that shed light on the Jewish experience during World War II. We read about assimilation, identity, and the meaning of home in a saga about the past that is still relevant today. We read about the experience of a Jewish family through a Polish shtetl, Parisian haute couture, the Résistance and Auschwitz. We examine the roots persistence of anti-Semitism. Freeman presents the many different responses of her family members to the anti-Semitism that sent many to their deaths yet spared others and we must consider them. Love and redemption are the themes of a book that will not be easily forgotten.

This is an intimate family history as well as the history of the world during the shocking period when ruled. It reads like a mystery, a memoir and a gripping history of the last century. Hadley Freeman reconstructs the story of a family that the Holocaust tried to destroy and she doesn’t hide anything.  She shows us the terrifying parallels to today’s anti-Semitism.  The story of the Glass family is a look at the Jewish experience. The research here is amazing and accompanied by a thoughtful analysis of what it means to be Jewish today. We see in the extremist politics of today in light of where they come out of the past.

Here is the author’s family, including the good, the bad, and the ugly and never-ending conflicts, some of which are never resolved. It tells the history of the times and locations in which the family lived. It tells of the successes in fashion, in engineering, in business and the failures and of those family members who survived the Holocaust and those who didn’t. which fell by the wayside and those which were regained. Secrets are revealed as her stories that took years to learn of.

Leave a Reply