Four Girls From Berlin: A True Sto­ry of a Friend­ship That Defied The Holocaust

Mar­i­anne Meyerhoff
  • Review
By – February 20, 2012

I am moth­er to my moth­er. I am all she has in the world to con­sole her.” So writes Mey­er­hoff, a daugh­ter of a sur­vivor, in the pro­logue of her book. Mey­er­hoff grew up with the despair of her moth­er Lotte about her lost fam­i­ly, whom she left behind in Ger­many in 1939 on her way to Amer­i­ca. She board­ed the SS St. Louis only to end up back in Europe in West­er­bork Deten­tion Camp. 

Hav­ing lost all of her pos­ses­sions, even child­hood pic­tures, in tor­tur­ous trav­els and tra­vails, the arrival of a big car­ton from Ger­many with per­son­al effects and pic­tures was a life-affirm­ing event for moth­er and daugh­ter. The pack­age was mailed by Lotte’s three Ger­man, non-Jew­ish school best friends who kept and safe­guard­ed through­out the Nazi peri­od pho­tos, heir­looms and memen­tos from the fam­i­ly and sent these to her after the war. 

Mey­er­hoff unfolds her mother’s pre­cious mem­o­ries and sto­ries about mem­bers of the fam­i­ly and her rela­tion­ships with her par­ents, grand­par­ents, broth­er, and her three friends, all in a lov­ing, secured, and cul­tured atmos­phere. The friend­ship of the four girls con­tin­ued even after the Nazis came to pow­er. A large part of the book revolves around Meyerhoff’s own trips to Europe where she met her mother’s friends and formed life-long rela­tion­ships with some of their chil­dren who were clos­er to her in age. 

The book is well writ­ten and easy to read. Mey­er­hoff even man­ages to devel­op sus­pense in the plot, sus­pense relat­ed to untold secrets, com­pli­ca­tions, and ambi­gu­i­ties which were part and par­cel of the rela­tion­ship between Jews and non-Jews dur­ing that period.

Bat­she­va Ben-Amos has two Ph.D.s, one in soci­ol­o­gy from the U. of Penn­syl­va­nia, the oth­er in clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gy from Hah­ne­mann University/​Hospital. In 2007, she received a fel­low­ship for The Sum­mer Insti­tute on the Holo­caust and Jew­ish Civ­i­liza­tion at North­west­ern University.

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