Friday, June 18, 2010

New Book from the JMM: Lights & Shadows

Arnold Fleischmann was a schoolboy in Bayreuth, Germany, when Hitler came to power in 1933. For nearly seven years, his family endured the cruelties of Nazism before fleeing to the United States and resettling in Baltimore. At eighteen, Arnold returned to Europe with the U.S. Army, determined to help defeat the regime that had destroyed life for Jewish families like his own. He saw combat in the Battle of the Bulge and served as an interpreter and deputy security officer with the U.S. occupation forces in Berlin, positions that allowed him to witness and actively participate in the wartime and postwar transition of power.

Arnold’s story is one of loss, but it is also one of redemption and renewal. It is a poignant account of a child’s confusion over seeing his world fall apart, a young refugee’s desire to settle the score with a homeland that cast him out, and a patriot’s service to his adopted country.

But most of all it is a story of family. Arnold can trace his family tree back centuries in Germany. The strength and tenacity of this extended family enabled many of its members to survive the Nazi onslaught, organize their flight to the U.S., and succeed in the painstaking ordeal of rebuilding their lives. Since transplanting itself to these shores, the family has continued to grow, setting down roots that promise to run as deep as they once did in Bavaria.

Lights & Shadows is an intergenerational collaboration between Arnold and his younger son, Alan. It is inspired by Arnold’s remarkable experiences and nurtured by Alan’s dedication to preserving and telling the family’s story.

Arnold Fleischmann was born in Bayreuth, Germany in 1925 and settled with his family in Baltimore in 1940. He was married to Laura Buxbaum from 1960 until her untimely death in 1988. They raised three children: Steven, Nicole (Niki), and Alan. For many years, Arnold ran a thriving law practice. Now retired, he lives in Baltimore County, Maryland. He travels frequently and enjoys spending time with his children, his and five grandchildren, and his longtime loving companion, Rosalie Rosenzwog.

Excerpt from chapter 1: Arnold returns to his childhood home in Bayreuth. His family fled the Nazis in 1940 and as soon as he was old enough to enlist, Arnold enlisted in the US Army and went back to Europe as a GI.

Arnold Fleischmann in the garden at Badstrasse

I was not quite twenty on that summer day in 1945 when I stood in front of Badstrasse 30 in Bayreuth, the house where I was born. I remembered mychildhood there, hours spent sliding down piles of hay in the barn, playing with my toy steam locomotives, conducting amateur chemistry experiments that once almost cost me my eyebrows. I pictured the changes that had taken place—in myself and in the world—since my family had left the house and fled Germany five years earlier, and thought about how it felt to leave my homeland and return as an American GI.

My reverie was interrupted when an old woman with a gravelly voice touched my shoulder. “Bist du nicht Fleischmanns Arno?” she said to me. I was dumbfounded. There I stood, an American in an Army uniform with a .45 caliber pistol strapped to my side. How could I possibly be recognizable as the young boy who used to chase chickens in the yard? But the scratchy-voiced woman had known me since my birth. Frau Strössner had apparently weathered the Second World War in our house.

Keep your eyes on the blog for more excerpts from this great publication!

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