As a very young girl I read the story of Anne Frank for the first of many times. Admittedly, it was extremely hard for me to imagine any such thing ever happening. There I sat in my warm home, comfortable and with more than enough food to eat, trying to rationalize in my mind what I was reading. As I grew older and could somewhat better understand Anne’s story and the need for it to be shared with others, I found myself reading and re-reading. I was, in some way, almost obsessed with her story and many like hers and feel that I am a much more compassionate person today for being absorbed in the past at such a young age. What senseless destruction of a people. The courage of those who endured is to be envied and they deserve for their story to be told.
Coming from an affluent Jewish family Ernie Weiss enjoyed, for a few brief years, a life of culture, art, and socialization in Vienna. The comfortable life where children were cared for by nannies and their elaborate meals were prepared by a hired cook was a life to be envied by others. Ernie’s father and the other males in his family were successful businessmen who owned a shoe factory and his mother Heidi enjoyed luncheons, playing bridge and tennis. Although the family seemed to be aware of the unrest around them they did not want to feel that the dire situation they had heard was coming was indeed at hand. Their comfortable life was gone almost instantaneously, their lives were engulfed in fear, and unknown anticipation.
Ernie Weiss never had a conversation with his father about his incarceration in a Dachau Concentration Camp. Why was it that Ernie could not discuss this or the fact that his family fled from the Nazis, through Yugoslavia, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and Cuba with his parents? Sometimes we feel that if we pretend it never happened the hurt will go away. We bury the pain and carry on. After the death of his parents, Ernie spent years putting together the vast puzzle of this important time for his family.
From having it all, to having what matters, we spend eight years with Ernie as he ages from a young child playing with his friends to a young man struggling to come to terms with what has just happened and endures more than anyone should ever endure in a lifetime. This story, as is the story of so many people like Ernie, is one that needs to be told, needs to be shared and needs to be understood.
As I read the final pages of this book our family sat watching the election results for the President of the United States. As we were watching this history-changing event on television many thoughts came to mind. The contrast between the two events, what I was reading and what I was watching, makes one realize what a very fragile world we live in.
I would personally like to thank Ernie for sharing the story of his family. The courage it took for his parents to try and give their children a semblance of a normal upbringing is to be cherished. As I read "Out of Vienna," I cried during the sad times, smiled during times of joy, and hoped from my soul that no one will ever have to again face the turmoil of those before.
Out of Vienna: Eight Years of Flight from the Nazis
Xlibris Corporation (2008)
Reviewed by Danelle Drake for Reader Views (11/08)