We are Going to Pick Pota­toes: Nor­way and the Holo­caust, the Untold Story

Irene Levin Berman
  • Review
By – October 4, 2011
It wasn’t until 2005 that Irene Levin Berman forced her­self to exam­ine what it meant to her to be a Holo­caust sur­vivor. Even after so many years, she strong­ly iden­ti­fied as a Jew and a Nor­we­gian, as well as a Unit­ed States cit­i­zen, but not hav­ing been in a ghet­to or camp, she didn’t feel wor­thy” of the label sur­vivor.” In We Are Going To Pick Pota­toes”: Nor­way and The Holo­caust, The Untold Sto­ry, she describes what hap­pened to the Jews of Nor­way dur­ing the Holo­caust, focus­ing main­ly on her par­tic­u­lar fam­i­ly; this is as much an auto­bi­og­ra­phy as an account of flight and reset­tle­ment in hos­pitable Swe­den. A child of four when she was told We are going to pick pota­toes,” she and her fam­i­ly embarked on a tor­tu­ous­ly dan­ger­ous jour­ney across the Alps to reach neu­tral Swe­den, just miss­ing the Gestapo roundup of Novem­ber 26th for the pur­pose of mass arrests. It was 1942, and the Nor­we­gian Jews who remained in Nor­way did not real­ize the dan­ger they were in. Inter­est­ing­ly, in one chap­ter, Berman tries to excuse the Nor­we­gian police and Nor­way for not emu­lat­ing the excel­lent record of Den­mark, say­ing that the Jews had been in Den­mark for cen­turies, which was not the case in Nor­way (to which she and her fam­i­ly returned after the war). Although this is pri­mar­i­ly an account of the fate of the author’s extend­ed fam­i­ly dur­ing the Holo­caust, it is nev­er­the­less an impor­tant addi­tion to the library of sur­vivor tes­ti­mo­ny since not much is known about Nor­we­gian Jews dur­ing this period.
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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