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Last Waltz in Vienna Paperback – 4 May 2007
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"Admirable, combining very cleverly the historical and personal." Graham Greene"
"Mr. Clare leads us gently, but inexorably, to the edge of the pit and then leaves us to look down into it." "Observer ""
"This poignant memoir is written from the heart . . . the truest defense against political hatreds for the future." "Financial Times""
'A beautiful book: a fascinating piece of history' Beryl BainbridgeSee all Product description
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Clare describes Austria's struggle to remain independent from Germany, and the incredible speed at which anti-semitism rose to the surface following the country's capitulation (when, literally, a single day meant the difference between Jewish families being able to escape with most of their possessions and their having to remain, only to be stripped of their jobs and all that they owned). He finds that the abuse of the Jews was - at least initially - adopted much more enthusiastically in Austria than in Germany, although he also describes brave individuals in both countries who refused to go along with the tide. And his account of the end of his parents (who died in Auschwitz) and his uncle (who survived the war, but was irredeemably broken by it) is heartbreaking. Reading this book in Vienna, while walking through the streets mentioned in the narrative, made the events it describes even more vivid, even though it had the effect of turning the friendly, elegant city of the present day into a shadowy backdrop for this sinister tragedy.
In clear and direct, but extremely moving prose, George Clare describes his family's services to Austria over the years (including in the Austro-Hungarian army) and his own early life in Vienna as a member of an assimilated Jewish family. But behind his idyllic early life is the growing menance of German and Austrian Nazism. The sheer ordinariness of a childhood and adolescence with his universal experiences makes a dramatic contrast with the extraordinary fate that overtakes the Klaars. George escapes to ultimately join the British Army but his parents and other members of his family are deported to be murdered in extermination camps in Poland. At the end of the book, George returns to France, many years later, to piece together his parents' last months of peace and their eventual terrible fate. On the way, Clare explains clearly the growth of Nazism in Austria and how Hitler was able to bully his native land into union with the German Reich.
Superbly written, this is a heartbreaking account of how one family's fate encapsulates in microcosm the destruction of a way of life, a culture, a people and an entire country.
Much of the book tells of the family history which is a key aspect when following his story. George Clare's description of ardent anti-semitism in Austria is particularly shocking but perhaps most significant of all is his very honest response (as an assimilated Jew) to what was happening around him. . At the time of the Anschluss the author was 17 years old - the book somewhat splits itself into two sections... his childhood and then adulthood coupled with anti-semitism.
It is wonderfully written and I cannot recommend this book enough.
My mother was the exact same age as George, living in Vienna through the same circumstances. Although not strictly speaking a Jew (her mother was Aryan, but her father was Jewish)her life was a parallel........
She managed to escape to England, but stories she told of her endlessly queuing for the relevant papers now makes much more sense. Her tales of the antisemitism and pro Nazism were hard to comprehend until I read this book. I was in his shoes and hers from the first page..........
I will treasure this book as a history of my mothers early to teenage years in Vienna and realize how lucky she and her father were to escape the clutches of Hitler. There are many stories like George Clare's, but few have been written so clearly and touchingly. It is a story of ups and downs, highs and lows, success and failure, but ultimately it is the story of survival for George, and the wrath of the Third Reich for many of his family simply because they were Jewish.
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This book brought home the full horror of what happened to decent, successful, hard working...Read more