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Download Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed eBook

by Leslie Maitland

Download Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed eBook
Leslie Maitland
Other Press; Reprint edition (January 8, 2013)
510 pages
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Blocked at the time by landslides of war, it had twisted throughout a lifetime of dreams while she went in another direction.

Lyrics from J’attendrai by Louis Potérat, 1938. Blocked at the time by landslides of war, it had twisted throughout a lifetime of dreams while she went in another direction. With its pitfalls concealed, too late to turn back, it seemed cruel and ill-timed to make her confront where the path she had lost might have led her. Was that the gift I would bring her from France at this uniquely terrible moment?

Includes bibliographical references (pages 489-492).

This is an amazing book. It records the events and results of one German Jewish family's experience during the Holocaust and for decades afterwards. It is hard to believe she was able to find out so much!

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Maitland used all the skills she acquired as reporter to tell the story of how her German Jewish mother, born Johanna Gunzburger in Freiburg, Germany, in 1923 managed to flee the Nazi killing machine in 1938, with her father, mother, sister and brother, landing first in Mulhouse, France, moving as the Germans defeated the French in June 1940, finally leaving on the last.

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Maitland includes a treasury of old family photographs and documents to enhance this incredible story of the gauzy intersection of memory and fact. with insight and honesty.

It traces the love story of two young people, Janine and her French Catholic lover, Roland Arcieri, caught up in war-torn France. This love is sustained throughout their lives, even though they have no contact for over fifty years.

   On a pier in Marseille in 1942, with desperate refugees pressing to board one of the last ships to escape France before the Nazis choked off its ports, an 18-year-old German Jewish girl was pried from the arms of the Catholic Frenchman she loved and promised to marry. As the Lipari carried Janine and her family to Casablanca on the first leg of a perilous journey to safety in Cuba, she would read through her tears the farewell letter that Roland had slipped in her pocket: “Whatever the length of our separation, our love will survive it, because it depends on us alone. I give you my vow that whatever the time we must wait, you will be my wife. Never forget, never doubt.”    Five years later – her fierce desire to reunite with Roland first obstructed by war and then, in secret, by her father and brother – Janine would build a new life in New York with a dynamic American husband. That his obsession with Ayn Rand tormented their marriage was just one of the reasons she never ceased yearning to reclaim her lost love.    Investigative reporter Leslie Maitland grew up enthralled by her mother’s accounts of forbidden romance and harrowing flight from the Nazis. Her book is both a journalist’s vivid depiction of a world at war and a daughter’s pursuit of a haunting question: what had become of the handsome Frenchman whose picture her mother continued to treasure almost fifty years after they parted? It is a tale of memory that reporting made real and a story of undying love that crosses the borders of time.

  • Thiama
I really liked this story of a Jewish family's escape from Europe, just in the nick of time before all escape became impossible, intertwined with a story of first love and separation through fate and a family's disapproval. Especially knowing that this is an entirely true story.

Having said this, I think the beginning and first part of the book are much stronger than the second part. Janine's growing up in Freiburg, Germany, is fascinating, and the circumstances of her family first losing their business and house and then fleeing across the border to Mulhouse, then farther into France to Gray and then Lyon, then finally via Marseille and Casablanca to Cuba on one of the last ships carrying refugees out of World War II Europe are riveting. One might say Janine is naive to be more interested in her first love, a young Catholic Frenchman she meets in Mulhouse and later reconnects with in Lyon, than worried about her family's predicament, but anyone who remembers their teenage years will agree that this is entirely plausible. Your heart breaks in sympathy with Janine who has to leave her beloved Roland behind in a war-torn country, not knowing if they'll ever see each other again.

The reason I enjoyed the second part less: You would think that having gone through so much, Janine would have become mature enough to decide for herself what she wants to make of her life, instead of listening to family and friends who try to drive a wedge between her and Roland and succeed in steering her toward another marriage. But this is how it went for her, so that's the story we get, mostly told through her daughter's (the author's) eyes once she is old enough to retell her mother's story. It's just that it drags on too long. It's understandable that the Ms. Maitland spares no detail about her parents' marriage and her father's character, but as a reader, you feel like he is an unwanted intruder. He isn't part of the story, and so having to deal with him (and his infidelities and the fact that nevertheless Janine's mother stays true to him) becomes a bit tedious. Toward the end of the book I felt like I couldn't wait for him to finally "go away" so that we could find out what happened to Roland and how it's going to all end.

Still, four stars for a well-written and well-researched story about ordinary people in extraordinary times.
  • Mariwyn
I really enjoyed Crossing the Borders of Time by Leslie Maitland. We all know a great deal about the German occupation of France during the second world war but this book shares a real life story about a family trying to escape the Nazis. It adds a personal family saga and takes us to France,--Alsace-Lorraine-- and then to Cuba before this family could get to the United States. The book is beautifully written and is a story of the author's mother's escape from France and Germany. In addition to leaving behind the family's business and all their possessions Janine, the main character, leaves behind her teenage sweetheart who is Catholic and she is Jewish. This is their story and is so well written by Leslie Maitland that the book reads like fiction but is, in actual fact, highly researched to verify her mother's story. It is a story of a very close knit family and their interwoven lives and struggle to live a happy, fulfill life in their new country. I highly recommend this book.
  • Arlelond
There ought to be a 6 star category reserved for books beyond excellent. In my opinion, Crossing the Borders of Time merits such a rating.

This is an amazing book. It records the events and results of one German Jewish family's experience during the Holocaust and for decades afterwards. Many years after the Holocaust, responding to the German government's invitation to Jewish survivors to visit, the author traveled to Germany. While there, she spoke to Aryan Germans whose actions affected her family. Many deeply regretted their or their family's role. Some refused to admit their guilt. Destructive behavior by a few showed that some Germans still embrace Hitler's message.

The family consists of the author's grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and their children. Ms Maitland, a prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, employs the meticulous and exhaustive research skills of an excellent reporter to ferret out a multitude of details about what happened to her grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts, and cousins. It is hard to believe she was able to find out so much! I have read quite a bit about this terrible time. The Holocaust almost wiped out my husband's very large family in Europe. I have lived in Israel and have known many survivors. But until reading this book, I never really understood how Jews, French, Germans, and others caught up in the Holocaust were affected.

Although replete with detailed factual information, Crossing the Borders of Time is never boring or dry. It reads like an excellent novel. There is a love interest, which adds a plot and gives the reader insight into the agonizing, far reaching emotional and life changing consequences this catastrophe brought about.

The story of the Holocaust, in my opinion, cannot be told enough. The surviving adults who experienced it are now dead or very old. Subsequent generations need to understand what happened and why we all need to guard against repeats of such horrific events. Our track record is not good. There have been three holocausts since World War II: Cambodia, Rwanda, and the Balkans.