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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and moving
This documentary novel by Croatian writer Dasa Drndic is one of the most powerful and compelling books I have ever read, and deserves to become a classic of Nazi and Holocaust literature Centred around the family story of Haya Tedeschi, it tells of her relationship with an SS officer and the abduction of her baby when a few months old by the Lebesnborn programme...
Published 13 months ago by Amanda Jenkinson

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bring me sunshine: A Simplification of an Incomplete complex tale of two Young Lovers
A book translated from Croat with the German title Sonnenschein, but which in English the translator adopts the name of an infamous Adriatic university town, made known in Churchill's Fulton "Iron curtain" speech in May 1946: Trieste, which until the fall of the Berlin Wall, was economically dying, kept artificially alive on a life-support as the last frontier station of...
Published 13 months ago by mangilli-climpson m


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and moving, 30 May 2014
By 
Amanda Jenkinson "MandyJ" (Cheltenham) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Trieste (Kindle Edition)
This documentary novel by Croatian writer Dasa Drndic is one of the most powerful and compelling books I have ever read, and deserves to become a classic of Nazi and Holocaust literature Centred around the family story of Haya Tedeschi, it tells of her relationship with an SS officer and the abduction of her baby when a few months old by the Lebesnborn programme. Sixty-two years later the novel opens with Haya still waiting to be reunited with him after a lifetime spent searching, and reminiscing about her turbulent past as she does so.
Within this narrative framework, the author has assembled an astonishing collage of eyewitness testimony, official documents, personal biographies, photographs, trial transcripts and even a complete list of the 9,000 Italians who were deported to the death camps. Much of the book covers familiar territory, as the era is well documented in both fiction and non-fiction. But Drndic brings a new dimension to the events by setting her story in Italy and bringing to our attention some of the lesser-known aspects of the time, such as, for example, a description of the Risiera of San Sabba, the only concentration camp on Italian soil, today a little-known and little-visited memorial, and the fact that freight-trains carrying Italian Jews and anti-fascists were allowed to travel through neutral Switzerland.
This book is an amazing achievement, meshing together both fiction and non-fiction, with almost every page presenting the reader with a new fact, a new scenario, so that the sum total is almost overwhelming. So unremitting is the tension that I couldn’t put it down and read it almost in one sitting. Even if some of the material is familiar, our involvement in Haya’s personal story as an individual brings home to us once again the true horror of the Hitler era.
The front cover calls the book “a monumental contribution to the literature of Europe’s modern history” and with that I most wholeheartedly concur.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In Italy too, lest we forget, 25 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: Trieste (Hardcover)
In this masterly blending of fact and fiction, Dasa Drndic has produced an extraordinary work, one recognised in the UK by the judges of The Independent Foreign Fiction 2012 awards.

So far as the historical record goes, the book is concerned with the rounding-up of around 9,000 Jews in German-occupied North-Eastern Italy, the area centred on Trieste, and their transport north to (mainly) Treblinka. When winter snow closed the Brenner Pass, the wagons went the long way round through supposedly neutral Switzerland. In addition, many captured partisans and anti-Fascists were taken to a converted rice-mill outside town and liquidated.

The book makes extensive use of archives, including transcripts from the Nuremberg Trials and the later trials of those involved in the many cruelties of Treblinka. The book is full of historical characters, not just leading Nazis but also junior officers and others running the camps, and `ordinary' witnesses bearing testimony. Dasa Drndic approaches her subject in oblique ways, using poetry and songs, interviews and documents, lists and photographs, to set up an almost Cubist design wherein the structure can only be viewed one part at a time and each from a different angle.

As for the 'story', the historical Kurt Franz`s career accelerates rapidly as the 1930s becomes the 1940s. In the 1930s he has been a cook at one of the euthanasia centres set up under `Aktion Reinhard', a programme whose purpose is the elimination of the physically and mentally disabled (as determined by the SS) in Southern and Eastern Poland. A change in policy has seen Franz transferred to the new death camps for Jews, first at Belzec, then at Treblinka, where having been promoted to his deputy by Christian Wirth, Franz has been made commander on Wirth's assassination by partisans. These camps are designed (unlike forced labour camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau) to gas as many Jews as possible within minutes of their arrival by railway.

The significance of this for `Trieste' is that when Kurt Franz comes into the (fictional) Catholicised Jew Haya Tedeschi's shop in Gorizia, not far from Italy's north-east border with what is today Slovenia, to her he is just a handsome German officer. But the baby son she conceives then vanishes, having been abducted for Himmler's `Lebensborn' programme aimed at producing a pool of Aryan `Ubermenschen'. The stolen children are lodged in a chain of orphanages across occupied Europe from where the blondest and bluest-eyed are given up for adoption. Now, six decades later, the start of the book sees Haya still waiting for her lost son to put in an appearance. As her aged mind melts to chocolate, as the author describes it, she riffles through the memories contained in a basketful of documents and photographs, and reflects on those far-off days.

The paperback edition acknowledges that large parts of the first third of the book are based on the real-life experiences of Fulvia Schiff (though she didn't have an affair with Kurt Franz, indeed she fled abroad for much of the war). The latter stages of the book describe, in a tour-de-force of imagining, the emotions that run through the mind of Haya Tedeschi's son, now aged 62, as he contemplates being re-united with his birth mother. These passages deal with the crises of identity undergone by those adopted under the `Lebensborn' programme who later, often very much later (if at all, and no thanks to the obstructions of the Catholic Church), discover they are not who they thought they were, and are in fact often the children of the murderers of their own people. For me this is the most affecting part of `Trieste', even more powerfully rendered than the better-known horrors of the camps.

Original and moving, Trieste is also beautifully translated and produced.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving and well researched book., 2 April 2013
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This review is from: Trieste (Hardcover)
Trieste a moving and beautifully woven story linking fictional characters and real events during the period after the Nazis moved into North Eastern Italy in 1943. The book was really well researched and the details concerning the treatment of Jews and Partisans under the Nazis showed the horror and inhumanity of the time. The theft of the baby and German attempts to create a 'pure' bred population have dreadful consquences for the children as the war ends and they are identified for what they are - there seems to have been no room for forgiveness when the war was over.It is perhaps wrong to say that I liked the book , it is not that kind of book , but it drew me into the people and events in a grapic way. I read the book initially because of a planned holiday to Trieste and while there a visit to the Risera de San Saba demonstarted what a cold and forbidding place it was/is and the testimony of survivors plus the memorials to those who died left quite an empty feeling, especially in a world where attitudes towards those who are 'different' and the rise of the Facist right in some countries shows that what Dasa Drndic was writing about has not gone away.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bring me sunshine: A Simplification of an Incomplete complex tale of two Young Lovers, 19 May 2014
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This review is from: Trieste (Paperback)
A book translated from Croat with the German title Sonnenschein, but which in English the translator adopts the name of an infamous Adriatic university town, made known in Churchill's Fulton "Iron curtain" speech in May 1946: Trieste, which until the fall of the Berlin Wall, was economically dying, kept artificially alive on a life-support as the last frontier station of pseudo-western freedoms and consumerism (countless jeans outlets thriving around the Ponterosso market for Slavs), and which since those heady days in 1989 has even ceased to be a brief rest-stop, becoming a sad, bleak Middle European ghost-like shell, living on memories of long past imperial glories - something which surprisingly the location gets limited attention throughout the volume. Part of the author's plan, or an unexpected oversight?

In Trieste, Dasa Drndic takes us on a multi-generational biographical family history across a century of time and geographical space around Southern / Central Europe, chiefly around the sleepy provincial centre of Görz or Gorizia/Gorica in Italian / Slovene, as experienced by the Jewish Baar / Tedeschi, families, and the key individuals within, as they grow up, fall in love, marry, have families, and die, in the wake of national political events: the onset of War in 1914 and the defeat of the Hapsburg Empire; the annexation of the multi-linguistic & ethnic territories under the Kingdom of Italy; the rise of Fascism, the gradual enforcement of anti-Jewish laws leading to the holocaust; and the long trial to retrace long lost loved ones.

The principal character and narrator is a Haya Tedeschi, who looks back from 2006 over sixty-two years, courageously and stubbornly waiting for news, on the whereabouts of her lost son, Antonio, born from a wartime relationship with a very Aryan, blond Kurt Franz, in Trieste, forcefully kidnapped and raised as a Lebensborn child by adopted parents in the Greater Reich. Franz - a member of the SS, previously deputy commandant of the death camp, at Treblinka - leaves Trieste, always denying any relationship with a non-Aryan female, nor of being the father of the boy. Unknown to Haya at the time, Franz was simply fulfilling his male soldierly needs; encouraged by the thrill, the dangers of war, of partaking in a risky, prohibited liaison with a pretty intelligent Jewess - something he might wish to brag to his kin in the officer mess, and subsequently made legitimate by being part of the policy to effect the Nazi dream of building a future Europe of obedient blue-eyed peoples.

In time, Haya learns of Franz's past, his life in post-war Germany, and has no feelings for his tribulations. Any youthful love has been transformed into hate, anger, and finally to complete disinterested apathy; her single concern has been to live on to learn through the International Red Cross anything on Antonio, and she waits. The IRC, Haya realises, is thorough, and does not and cannot take sides even to comfort the needy like herself. They therefore are compelled to keep hoping and waiting. Does the mother and her adult child actually meet and finally experience the heat of that sunshine of maternal love? Are the poems at the end wishful thinking, or part of a unattainable dream? Does the author leave readers with the mother with optimism at the end of her incomplete, unfulfilled life?

Drndic makes no distinction between the evil Nazi policy of kidnapping children, with the Vatican's directive of October 1946, as presented by journalist Alfonso Morelli of the Corriere della Sera in December 2005, refusing to return to their biological parents any living Jewish child saved from the Holocaust through baptism and conversion. Like the Nazis, the Vatican chose to identify these persons as solely one of theirs. For this, the author criticizes Pope Pius XII for the directive, and as Cardinal Pacelli, one of the signatories of the Concordat with Nazi Germany, signed in July 1933, who showed a total trust in the then new German authorities, something which has remained in force to this day. This is an important, valid, and praiseworthy comparative comment.

My criticisms, instead, are prompted by what has been included and excluded. Of the former, when explaining Lebensborn children, the difficulty of unearthing materials from archives, about other Nazi's who were either convicted of war crimes or freed, and of comments uttered by children and grandchildren of the butchers, such as Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler The Himmler Brothers: A German Family History, the author presents many examples with lengthy biographies, few of which are directly connected or relevant to the main story. Why? I suspect, while accumulating the material Drndic felt she had to make full use of what she had, even if irrelevant, and gives the impression that during the preparation of the manuscript the author had various organizational writing schemes, which underwent various modifications over time.

Of the latter, I am surprised that nothing was first mentioned of the response by the local population to those Italian girls, Jewish or Gentiles, who had befriended or collaborated with the Germans when they left the occupied area (in other places in Europe these girls were treated with scorn and described as "Gerry bags"), nor, secondly, of the advancing Yugoslav forces - either the pro Axis anti-communist Slovene Home militia, or Tito's communist partisan Army, who both looked on any Italians as their foes regardless of their politics.

Such strong hostile feelings, in particular the second group, persisted for more than a generation throughout the Cold War if locals lost lands and property during the transfer of the national frontiers negotiated at the peace conference in Paris - the most striking example of permanent loss was the sight of a divided town cemetery in Gorizia: one side inside the Italian borders, and half in the new town of Nova Gorica within the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, showing that for many locals there existed no real peace, only a formal agreement, after the hostilities had terminated.

For these elderly protagonists, the present is mixed up with their memories in the past, which did not come to an end at the end of the Cold War, the entry of an independent Slovenia into the EU and the dismantling of the wall in a central square in Gorizia/Gorica in February 2004 which separated two distinct nations, but in fact with their own deaths. The dead, however, did not completely die once interred at death; they live on, in the memories of family and friends (even close rivals and enemies) who knew and loved them.

Does it matter that these points were overlooked? Was it done purposely to keep the plot one- dimensional, controversial and fairly unique about two young lovers, a Jewess and a Nazi, or to attempt to wipe away the nationalist wartime enmities between Italians and Slavs kept alive during the Cold War? History like truth is for remembering, not for forgetting, and certainly should not be selective, unless one wishes to use it for propaganda purposes.

For the unaware, or those born after 1989, Trieste could be described simply as a story; for the more aware and with longer memories it could be the simplification of an incomplete complex tale. Only Dasa Drndic can answer why she chose to censor parts of local history from her story. Some curious, uninformed Italians and former Yugoslavs - contemporary Slovenes and Croats, living around the borders might wish to be told, otherwise they will be quick to fire off their own conclusions and accusations, and they might be less than complementary. Part inspiring, part thought-provoking, in part pretty tedious, and sickening.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must for the people who want to know the story of fascism., 27 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Trieste (Paperback)
It is a very important and impresivedocument about the life in Trieste, Gorizia and Friuli during the period 1930, 1945.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Partly documentary and partly fictional account of events in the region during WW2, 13 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Trieste (Hardcover)
It is a harrowing story which I cannot say I enjoyed but found the documentary records of great personal interest.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A woman waiting......., 18 April 2014
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This review is from: Trieste (Paperback)
.......for a reunion with a lost son against the background of all the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.
It simply reduces one to tears and despite/because of it it is a book that needs to be read.
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Trieste
Trieste by Dasa Drndic (Paperback - 28 Feb. 2013)
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