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Finalist - 2013 Montaigne Medal, presented by Hopewell Publications
A daughter struggles to get her mother to talk about her Holocaust experiences, and tries to understand how those experiences have shaped her own life.
What’s it like to spend sixteen months in hiding, crouching in a tiny cellar, during the dark years of World War II? To know that many of your friends and relatives have either been shot or sent to concentration camps? To have your life depend on the humanity of an elderly Christian couple who lets you hide under their floor? What if you knew it had been your mother crouching under that floor? Wouldn’t you wonder how she stood it? How it felt? What it did to her? And how it all affected you? In Hiding Places, Diane Wyshogrod traces the process of discovery and self-discovery as she researched the experiences of her mother, Helen Rosenberg, who as a teenager hid in just such a cellar, in Żółkiew, Poland. The narrative, which moves between New York, pre-war and wartime Poland, and Jerusalem, is based on many hours of recorded interviews and covers Helen’s life before, during, and after World War II.
Although Wyshogrod’s original intention was simply to record her mother’s experiences, piecing the narrative together proved difficult: there were numerous gaps, things her mother could (or would) no longer remember, and other things her daughter just couldn’t comprehend. To fill in these gaps, Wyshogrod draws from all the facets of her identity—writer, clinical psychologist, daughter, mother—in an attempt not only to understand her mother’s experiences, but to find out why it is so important for her (and for us) to make that attempt in the first place.
“[Helen Rosenberg’s] story is carefully and realistically depicted, with no painful or harrowing details spared. Yet the tale is told with so much warmth and understanding that the reader is buoyed by the emotions and becomes more easily able to accept the facts … This book is a war memoir but also a mother-daughter story, and it tackles and wrestles to the ground many of the thorniest issues that can arise between the generations, especially those that encompass lives experienced on such different terms.” — Jewish Book World
“It’s a wonderful book. Diane Wyshogrod brings her mother’s experiences to life and interweaves them with her own astute thoughts and feelings. A sense of honesty and intimacy pervades the book. Her profound love for her mother comes through beautifully.” — Carol Kaufman, editor of Jewish Book World
“A remarkable addition to the growing literature of mother-daughter relationships, as well as to the literature of intergenerational transmission of trauma. Psychologist Wyshogrod’s long and careful investigation of her mother’s survival of the Shoah, her Christian rescuers, and her depiction of her own daily life in contemporary Israel make for compelling reading.” — Helen Epstein, author of Children of the Holocaust and Where She Came From: A Daughter’s Search for Her Mother’s History
“In recording her attempts to coax her mother into speaking about the unspeakable, Diane Wyshogrod has written a Holocaust memoir that breaks new ground. This is a book about the transmission of memory, about the conflict between the need to remember the past and the need to transcend it, about the tenderness between mother and daughter. A compelling addition to our knowledge of the past and, no less, to our knowledge of ourselves.” — Yossi Klein Halevi, Shalom Hartman Institute
“Anyone who has ever wondered what their mother’s life was really like before they were born will be riveted by Diane Wyshogrod’s account of uncovering—and coming to terms with—the story of how her mother survived World War II. I appreciated every specific detail: of life there, of her mother’s interactions with her protectors, of Dr. Wyshogrod’s own complex reactions to and feelings about her mother’s experience. A pleasure to read.” — Deborah Tannen, Georgetown University and author of You Were Always Mom’s Favorite! Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives
Diane Wyshogrod is a clinical psychologist and writer. Born in New York City, she currently lives in Jerusalem with her husband and three sons.
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