One day in 2000, Faris Cassell’s physician husband came home with a fifty-year-old letter that had been handed to him by a patient. The letter was a plea for help from a Jewish couple named Berger trying to escape Vienna in 1939 as the Nazis were advancing on Austria. They had sent the letter in desperation to an unknown family in America also named Berger, but not related. The plea went unanswered but the letter was saved, lying forgotten in a California attic.
Cassell, a journalist, made it her mission to trace the travels and travails of the Berger family. It took several years of research but she located many living family members in the United States and around the world, and worked extensively with them to construct a timeline with their saved letters. We read about the ways in which various parts of the family tried to leave their respective countries for safety elsewhere, and the ever-tightening restrictions on immigration they faced.
Cassel’s vivid storytelling transports the reader through emotional highs and lows as the Berger family confronts dire situations at every turn.This book provides an excellent education about the situation of the Viennese Jews during the Holocaust era. It’s also a great read.
Sue is an active volunteer in Jewish life in Scottsdale, AZ. She has participated in the Sar-El program many times. She is currently the AIPAC Phoenix Council Chair, Phoenix Political Chair, Board member of the Phoenix Jewish Community Relations Council and the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival.