One Step Ahead of Hitler: A Jew­ish Child’s Jour­ney Through France

  • Review
By – September 13, 2011
One Step Ahead of Hitler is a flight not remem­bered by the author, who was only three when he expe­ri­enced it. Because of his tal­ent in inter­view­ing mem­bers of his fam­i­ly, research­ing, and writ­ing, it is an adven­ture you will not soon for­get. Although Gross knew much about the Holo­caust because of his fam­i­ly his­to­ry, he didn’t know pre­cise­ly what his imme­di­ate fam­i­ly, includ­ing him­self, had expe­ri­enced. Two decades ago, he tried to query his moth­er, ask­ing her to tell him the sto­ry of the family’s flight from Bel­gium as the Nazis invad­ed. He learned a bit, but his stiff-necked moth­er was uncom­mu­nica­tive, and not until he began to query his old­er broth­ers did he learn about what had hap­pened. Then, he too, began to remem­ber some inci­dents. He remem­bered his cold, non-demon­stra­tive moth­er press­ing her body over his to pro­tect him, as they tried to escape the straf­ing by Ger­man planes of the refugees stream­ing toward the coast. Most of the family’s flight took place in occu­pied France, where the French police helped the Nazis round up more than 75,000 Jews for depor­ta­tion to the death camps. How was this can­ny fam­i­ly, interred in the Gurs camp, the way sta­tion to Auschwitz, able to free itself? It was through the clev­er­ness and courage of father and son. Read how they ran from place to place, believ­ing that they had found safe­ty in the south of France, only to have the Nazis come there, as well. The broth­ers and father used their inge­nu­ity, for­ti­tude, courage, and the help of Right­eous Chris­tians along the way who risked their own lives on behalf of these des­per­ate refugees as they made their way through France. What makes the book come alive are the many con­ver­sa­tions, col­or­ful descrip­tions, and nar­ra­tive tal­ent. It could be a nov­el, but is true. This is a tale worth telling, and here it is told par­tic­u­lar­ly well.

Addi­tion­al books fea­tured in this review:

Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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