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I Belong to Vienna
Cover of I Belong to Vienna
I Belong to Vienna
A Jewish Family's Story of Exile and Return
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A memoir of family history, personal identity, and WWII Vienna—a "well-researched, intimate, evocative look at some of the 20th century's foulest days" (Kirkus).

In autumn 1942, Anna Goldenberg's great-grandparents and one of their sons are deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Hans, their elder son, survives by hiding in an apartment in the middle of Nazi-controlled Vienna. But this is no Anne Frank-like existence; teenage Hans passes time in the municipal library and buys standing room tickets to the Vienna State Opera. He never sees his family again.

Goldenberg reconstructs this unique story in magnificent reportage. She also portrays Vienna's undying allure. Although they tried living in the United States after World War Two, both grandparents eventually returned to the Austrian capital. The author, too, has returned to her native Vienna after living in New York herself, and her fierce attachment to her birthplace enlivens her engrossing biographical history.

I Belong to Vienna is a probing tale of heroism and resilience marked by a surprising freshness as a new generation comes to terms with history's darkest era.

A memoir of family history, personal identity, and WWII Vienna—a "well-researched, intimate, evocative look at some of the 20th century's foulest days" (Kirkus).

In autumn 1942, Anna Goldenberg's great-grandparents and one of their sons are deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Hans, their elder son, survives by hiding in an apartment in the middle of Nazi-controlled Vienna. But this is no Anne Frank-like existence; teenage Hans passes time in the municipal library and buys standing room tickets to the Vienna State Opera. He never sees his family again.

Goldenberg reconstructs this unique story in magnificent reportage. She also portrays Vienna's undying allure. Although they tried living in the United States after World War Two, both grandparents eventually returned to the Austrian capital. The author, too, has returned to her native Vienna after living in New York herself, and her fierce attachment to her birthplace enlivens her engrossing biographical history.

I Belong to Vienna is a probing tale of heroism and resilience marked by a surprising freshness as a new generation comes to terms with history's darkest era.

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About the Author-
  • Anna Goldenberg, born in 1989 in Vienna, studied psychology at the University of Cambridge and journalism at Columbia University. She worked at the Jewish newspaper The Forward in New York before returning to Vienna where she now writes as a freelance journalist.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    April 15, 2020
    Why would you return to a city that tried to murder you? Here is the story of one Jewish family that did. In her English-language debut, Goldenberg, a former culture fellow at the Forward who is now a freelance journalist in Vienna, blends history, biography, and memoir to tell the story of her extended family and some significant others. Though the Holocaust is the primary setting, the author begins and ends in Poughkeepsie, New York, where her grandparents, both doctors, went to work after World War II. They did not stay long but returned to Vienna, where their families had been hunted by the Nazis--but also where they had found remarkable assistance from others. As Goldenberg notes, they felt that they had to return to their homeland--though she still has plenty of questions regarding their motivations. "How had they found reconciliation with Austria? Weren't they constantly reminded of the humiliations they'd been subjected to following Hitler's 1938 annexation of their homeland?" The author's grandmother was a prime source for research, but Goldenberg also visited relevant sites in Europe and America--sometimes in company with her grandmother, who had spent time in Theresienstadt--consulted family papers and memories, and visited assorted archives. "For my grandmother...remembering has become a sport--a race against oblivion, in which every detail that comes to mind puts her in the lead," writes the author. With these resources, she vividly re-creates the scene in Vienna as horror arrived: the rise of the Nazis, the abuse of Jews, the roundups and transportations, and the varied fortunes of her family members, some of whom didn't survive. Goldenberg's principal focus is her grandparents--Hansi and Helga, who were teens at the time--and how both were able to escape the worst of it. Well-researched, intimate, evocative look at some of the 20th century's foulest days. (b/w photos, family tree)

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 11, 2020
    In this understated debut, journalist Goldenberg explores her Jewish family history during WWII. Her grandparents, Hansi and Helga Feldner-Bustin, had survived the Nazis and immigrated in 1955 to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to work as doctors, and a year later returned to Vienna, where they remained. Goldenberg learned that Hansi had left behind in Vienna folders of documents, and used them as a starting point to reconstruct her grandparents’ lives and understand their choices. Through family photos, school report cards, letters, and Nazi documents detailing the liquidation of Jewish businesses, Goldenberg presents a vivid picture of life in Vienna under Nazi rule. Her relatives had markedly different experiences: Helga suffered in the Theresienstadt concentration camp for years but managed to escape death before that camp was liberated in 1945. In contrast, Hansi, who was taken in by a Catholic doctor, was “constantly out and about” on the streets of Vienna, visiting lending libraries, taverns, and university classes. Goldenberg uncovered the surprising reason the Feldner-Bustins decided to return home: the “rigid, racist social conventions” the couple encountered among their non-Jewish friends in Poughkeepsie. Goldenberg’s thoughtful research and engaging style make this a valuable addition to Holocaust literature
    .

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I Belong to Vienna
I Belong to Vienna
A Jewish Family's Story of Exile and Return
Anna Goldenberg
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