1941: The Year That Keeps Returning is a personal account of how Slavko Goldstein’s life changed during that year. The book is more of an historical narrative than a personal diary. Goldstein describes how the Holocaust affected him and many of Croatia’s Jewish residents after the Nazis occupied what was then Yugoslavia.
Early in the book the author writes, “I think I can pinpoint exactly the hour and day when my childhood ended.” He explains how his father was taken from their house on April 13, 1941, and then two months later his mother was imprisoned. At the age of thirteen Goldstein and his nine-year-old brother were left to fend for themselves. Along with the historical context, readers can understand that the Jews had only days to escape after the Nazis brought to power the Ustasha, a pro-fascist nationalist group. Those unlucky were arrested, including local Serbs, Jews, and Communists.
The German occupiers had a strong influence in Croatia, especially after the puppet government was established. Goldstein chronicles how for the Jews in that state, options quickly dwindled and brutality increased. In the beginning Jews were only arrested, but as the months passed, they were abused, and toward the end of the year many were exterminated. The exceptions were those Jews who either joined the Partisans or the resistance, or fled to Italy.
Having this eyewitness account of those critical events makes a powerful impact and will enable readers to understand the experiences of Croatia’s Jewish residents. Although at times burdened with too much detail, 1941 is once again a reminder of that horrible period in history. Index, list of acronyms, notes.
- When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941 – 1945 by Esther Gitman
Read Elise Cooper’s interview with Slavko Goldstein here.