A Brief Stop on the Road From Auschwitz

Goran Rosen­berg

  • Review
By – December 22, 2015

In this deeply sen­si­tive, beau­ti­ful­ly craft­ed and mov­ing account, Gören Rosen­berg imag­ines the dark expe­ri­ences of his father David’s road to Auschwitz that begins in the Lodz ghet­to, a world of grad­ual degra­da­tion and destruc­tion, a world of even more unre­al­is­tic hopes, kept alive by increas­ing­ly implau­si­ble euphemisms, but it’s a world that still has a past and a future.”

Auschwitz was the last jour­ney for many Jews, but not for David. As the war drew to a close in late 1944, a grow­ing sys­tem of slave labor camps meant to feed the Ger­man war machine opened up roads out of Auschwitz. Thou­sands of skele­tal fig­ures from Auschwitz and oth­er camps are put to work and to this Rosenberg’s father owes his life.

Through var­i­ous twists and turns, or as Gören Rosen­berg, an accom­plished Swedish jour­nal­ist and author, writes, luck, chance and freak are the stones with which every road from Auschwitz are paved.” Life after Auschwitz is improb­a­ble, unpre­dictable, and capri­cious and David, in his twen­ties after lib­er­a­tion, finds him­self on a train to Swe­den whose gov­ern­ment has decid­ed to give refuge to thou­sands of sur­vivors. He set­tles in a town near Stock­holm where he tries and hopes to rebuild his life, what he calls the project” — a home, a job, a fam­i­ly, sym­bols of post-war nor­mal­i­ty. But the tran­si­tion from sur­viv­ing to liv­ing is just too dif­fi­cult. When does the Holo­caust end for David, for count­less oth­er sur­vivors? Clear­ly what the Nazis have done to him can­not be left behind and the project” unrav­els through the 1950s, with frus­tra­tion, and depres­sion creep­ing into his life.

With pre­ci­sion, insight and heart-ren­der­ing prose, A Brief Stop on the Road From Auschwitz is one of the most pow­er­ful accounts of the oth­er death — the death after the camps caused by the scars of the past that left some sur­vivors unable to build new homes and lives. From its lyri­cal and poet­ic open­ing pages to its dis­turb­ing and trag­ic con­clu­sion, this is an unfor­get­table book about grief, mem­o­ry and the inspir­ing fil­ial com­pas­sion of a son who tries to relive and describe his father’s life with­out sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty and prejudice.

Michael N. Dobkows­ki is a pro­fes­sor of reli­gious stud­ies at Hobart and William Smith Col­leges. He is co-edi­tor of Geno­cide and the Mod­ern Age and On the Edge of Scarci­ty (Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty Press); author of The Tar­nished Dream: The Basis of Amer­i­can Anti-Semi­tism; and co-author of The Nuclear Predicament.

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