After Long Silence

After Long Silence

Book - 1999
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Helen Fremont was raised Roman Catholic in America, only to discover in adulthood that her parents were Jews who had survived the Holocaust.  Delving into the extraordinary secrets that held her family together in a bond of silence for more than forty years, she recounts with heartbreaking clarity and candor a remarkable tale of survival, as vivid as fiction but with the eloquence of truth. When Helen was small, her mother taught her the sign of the cross in six languages.  Theirs was the tender conspiracy of a little girl and her mother at bedtime, protected by a God who could respond in any language.  What she didn't understand was that she was being equipped with proof of her Catholicism, a hedge against persecution, real or imagined. It wasn't until adulthood that she began to comprehend the terrible irony of her mother's gesture, as she and her sister discovered their parents' remarkable, long-held secret.  She knew that her father had spent six years in the Siberian Gulag, surviving nearly on will alone; that her mother's elder sister, fearless and proud, had married an Italian Fascist whose title and connections helped them to survive during the war.  But their faith, their legacy as Jews, was kept hidden for decades. After Long Silence is a searching inquiry into the meaning of identity, self, and history.  It's about the devastating price of hiding the truth; about the steps we take, foolish or wise, to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  No one who reads this book can be left unmoved, or fail to understand the seductive, damaging power of secrets.
Publisher: New York : Delacorte Press, 1999.
ISBN: 9780385333696
0385333692
Branch Call Number: 940.53 Fre
Characteristics: 322 p.

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Manfredchensenjen
Feb 06, 2013

The author's parents outsmarted the Russians and Nazis. Her mother worked as a translator. She studied in Rome before the War and worked for the Italian military in Lvov, Poland, because she was trilingual in Polish, German and Italian. Her fiance worked in the hospital because he had been in medical school. He criticized the Russians -- Russia and Germany had divided Poland, and Lvov is in Eastern Poland, and later the Nazis drive the Russians out -- and was sent to prison in Siberia. He became trilingual in Polish, German and Russian. He helped a Polish smuggler in the prison, who later smuggled him from Poland to Italy, after he escapes from prison in Siberia. The author's mother's employer helped smuggle her into Italy. They are caught, but claim they fell in love and are running away together, so the Italian soldiers let them go. Finally, after a perils-of-Pauline ten years' engagement, they were united in Rome, having had all their extended families rounded up and murdered in Auschwitz. Then they learn English. The author's mother actually helps the people who allowed her to learn Italian, her sister and brother-in-law, who were unemployed when the Americans took Rome -- even though her brother-in-law was no more a fascist than she had been an orthodox Jew. She gets work as a translator for the Americans in Rome. Eventually the author's parents are allowed to emigrate to America, and the author's father gets his medical license, and the author and her sister are brought up Catholic. Her parents take them to church every Sunday because they are determined that their children will not be in danger. And finally, the author, after uncovering all this family history her parents had hidden from her, has to tell her parents a secret of her own, that she is vulnerable to hate groups.

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