From the author of Paris Never Leaves You, a gripping story of a young German Jewish woman who returns to Allied Occupied Berlin from America to face the past and unexpected future
Millie Mosbach and her brother David escaped to the United States just before Kristallnacht, leaving their parents and little sister in Berlin. Now they are both back in their former hometown, haunted by ghosts and hoping against hope to find their family. Millie works in the office responsible for rooting out the most dedicated Nazis from publishing. Like most of their German-born American colleagues, the siblings suffer from rage at Germany and guilt at their own good fortune. Only Millie’s boss, Major Harry Sutton, seems strangely eager to be fair to the Germans.
Living and working in bombed-out Berlin, a latter day Wild West where the desperate prey on the unsuspecting; spies ply their trade; black markets thrive, and forbidden fraternization is rampant, Millie must come to terms with a past decision made in a moment of crisis, and with the enigmatic sometimes infuriating Major Sutton who is mysteriously understanding of her demons. Atmospheric and page-turning, The Living and the Lost is a story of survival, love, and forgiveness, of others and of self.
Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Scottsboro, The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, and Lucy. She writes both fiction and social history, and has published articles on the history of divorce, plastic surgery, Halloween, the Normandie, and many other topics, as well as numerous book reviews. She has also lectured extensively around the country and in Germany and England, and is a sought-after speaker to reading groups both in person and by telephone. She grew up in northern New Jersey and attended Bryn Mawr College, from which she holds a B.A. and an M.A. in modern history. After further graduate studies in history at Columbia University, she worked for a New York publishing house. She lives in New York City and East Hampton, New York, with her husband and Cairn terrier named Lucy.
I’ve read plenty of books about WWII. But this is the first I can remember to tackle post-war Germany and the attempts to put the country back together. Millie and her brother David were young German Jews who were sent to the US at the very start of the Nazi regime. Their parents and younger sister were unable to get out. Now, they’ve returned to Berlin. Millie is assigned to the US Army, trying to sort out which Germans can be cleared to return to publishing. David is working on helping Displaced Persons. Feldman does a great job of giving us a true sense of the time and place - the Occupation by multiple nations, the hedonistic atmosphere of Berlin, the black market, the spying. I really felt I learned a lot reading this. She also does a great job of expressing not only the rage of the “American” Jews who have come to help, but also their commitment. The question raised here is how to move forward - to heal, to forgive, to overcome the survivor’s guilt. All the characters were interesting, but Harry Sutton captured my interest the most. He is the one most able to see the grey, to try to find empathy. This book moved me both intellectually and emotionally. It would make a great book club selection. My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advance copy of this book.
Ah, another new WWII novel with a unique take on the wartime theme. I am loving these authors who come up with something different, allowing us to continue to honor the victims of the Holocaust without telling us the same story over and over again.
The Living and the Lost takes place during the time of the postwar occupation of Germany by the Americans, the British, the French and the Russians. There are also several flashback chapters that take us back to the early 1940s set in Germany and the United States. The protagonist is Mieke, a German Jew going by her Americanized name of Millie. She and her brother David spend the war years in the States and then return to their native Berlin to help with the postwar efforts. Millie is working under Harry Sutton on a project designed to get the publishing businesses back on their feet without the Nazi influence. Millie finds it difficult to keep her personal feelings out of her job decisions. In fact, a past critical decision made in a split second has continued to haunt her for years and has influenced almost everything in her life. Millie isn’t the only one fighting the past as efforts are made to bring the broken city and its people back to some semblance of decency.
I was intrigued by viewing the war through this new angle; I learned so much. We see the wreckage of Berlin, details of the Allies’ occupation, and the emotional effects rendered on both the citizens of Berlin and those tasked with helping them. There is so much suffering and lingering hate, guilt, blame, and trauma—both physical and mental. Ultimately there are the beginnings of hope, understanding, and forgiveness.
My criticisms of the novel are two-fold. First, I found it difficult to connect with Millie or really any of the main characters until well after the 50% point. Secondly, I thought the tale dragged a little at times. I blame my less than fervent interest in Millie, Harry, and David for that. Ultimately though, I came to respect and understand all three of these characters, especially Millie, which led to warmer feelings on my part. The ending is hopeful and very satisfactory and includes a nice epilogue.
I do recommend The Living and the Lost for everyone interested in a new vision of the WWII theme. The ratings to date are phenomenal, and I suggest potential readers seek out some of the many 5-stars reviews before deciding to skip “yet another” WWII-themed novel. This one is different and deserves to be read.
Many thanks to Rivka Holler of St. Martin Press, Net Galley, and Ms. Ellen Feldman for the ARC. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
What would it be like to be living in Berlin immediately after WW II? In addition to being a German Jew who spent the war in the US. And, you are a captain in the army working on Denazification. Talk about emotional overload. Millie Mosbach is sure she has her priorities straight, but does she really know herself as well as she thinks she does? As with Paris Never Leaves You, Feldman gives us an authentic heroine who has to make difficult choices. What do you do when the past can't be undone and you are burdened by the choice you made? Did Millie really come back just to help vet the Germans seeking to help purge Nazi ideology? What about her missing family members? What is her brother David doing when he is out late at night? The prose is at times beautiful and at others very grim. Post-war Berlin was messy. Includes Millie's experiences from Kristallnacht through the Berlin Airlift. If you are looking for something different to read about WW II, this is your book.
Thank you to St. Martins and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
The Living and the Lost by Ellen Feldman is the story of one Jewish family in Berlin during and after the Second World War. The Mosbachs are the parents of three children: Meike, David and Sarah. For reasons beyond their control, the family is torn apart. The parents and young Sarah were left behind and Meike and David travelled safely to the U.S. where someone sheltered and took care of them to adulthood. The novel moves from the war years to the return of David and Meike to Berlin as adults to help return the devastated city to its prewar glory by seeking out hidden Nazis and helping Jews to travel to safety. This will take its toll on the siblings. I have read several books about the holocaust but this one is different. Ellen Feldman has written a book that puts the reader on the streets of Berlin at the worst time and she also delves into the emotions and realities of the victims but also of the survivors. This is my second book by this author and I was not disappointed. The prose is beautiful and at times achingly unbearable. The flawed and authentic characters take us to some of the worst times in history. This is a difficult read but it is well worth spending time on its pages. Highly recommended. Thank you to St. Martin’s Press, NetGalley and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I’m just loving the fresh takes, the new perspectives coming from the WWII hist-fic genre lately. The Living and the Lost is no exception!
Millie and David are siblings while living in Germany, narrowly escaped the tragedies of war. While relieved to escape, the pain of guilt haunts the pair (to varying degrees) as they attempt to resume life in America.
Years later, while employed by the US government, they find themselves employed in Berlin. The sensation of being back home smacks in to them full force. Survivor’s guilt is explored at length and I found this deeply moving. Who suffers more—those lost or those that were left behind? How heavy is the guilt we carry? Can we truly live to our fullest when we carry such a load? Is forgiveness even possible—not just for others, but for ourselves?
What sets this book apart from others in the genre is that it explores POST-war Germany. A topic I find extremely interesting. *The war ends but the prejudices live on. * It explores the process of healing and asks deftly if healing is possible when we hang on to the past...when we nourish deep divides...when we view our neighbors with suspicion? (And so many more important contextual questions).
This is one of those novels that begs to be discussed with other readers. It’s poignant and while it explores historical themes, many overriding concepts find important meaning for our lives today.
I appreciate the publisher reaching out to me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️I highly recommend this book not just to lovers of historical WWII fiction but to anyone who endeavors to understand the human spirit...what it means to love, heal, persevere, and forgive.
It is late 1945. Millie (Meike) Mosbach, a young German Jewish woman, has returned to Berlin after the war to assist in America’s de-Nazification efforts. Also back in Germany is her younger brother David, who is part of the U.S. Army, trained in intelligence and working in the Displaced Persons camps. Back in 1938, the entire Mosbach family had tried to flee Germany together for the U.S. but only the two older children got out, leaving their parents and younger sister Sarah behind. The separation at the train station continues to haunt Millie and part of her desire to return to Germany is to find her parents and sister. The reports are not encouraging but she has never given up hope.
The story shifts back in time to Millie and David’s early life in America having been sponsored by a generous American couple. Millie receives a scholarship and graduates from Bryn Mawr College. David attends private school and pursues a military career. While it is less overt, they both experience an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in their new country.
The post-war setting of The Living and the Lost provides a rarely written about perspective of the aftermath of the Holocaust. As Germany was occupied by several nations, the American’s effort to help rebuild the country was filled with many challenges. Author Ellen Feldman brings the reader into the chaos that existed including homelessness, poverty and crime. Millie is so filled with survivor’s guilt that she is unable to find much joy in her life. She can only see the worst in people as she only sees the worst in herself. While she has survived, Millie, in many ways, is also part of the lost. Author Feldman takes an unsentimental, realistic approach in Millie's journey which includes meeting her match in Major Harry Sutton, a man who is also hiding his own demons.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin, the author and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this thoughtful, engaging book prior to its September 7, 2021 release. I enjoyed the author’s last book Paris Never Leaves You and found this book to be even stronger.
Historical fiction is still a relatively new genre for me and I am still finding my feet. When Return to Berlin was sent to me by Simon and Schuster Australia, I decided to give it a go. It was a different take on a war novel, with it taking place after the war has ended. And the main characters were Jewish. It was a heartbreaking and interesting novel of loss, guilt, hate and trauma, but at the same time there was hope and the promise of a new start in a new world. So many aspects of war that I have not read about before, a real eye opener and makes me glad to be living today.
Return to Berlin is about Millie and David, brother and sister who are Jewish and managed to get out of Germany and into the US before the war. The rest of their family were not so lucky. They are no going back to Berlin to assist with the post war efforts, and for Milie, try to find her family, who she hopes have survived the war. They return to a broken country and people, who are trying to find their way in the new reality. Finding loved ones, home and work are all things that they need to focus on and Millie and David along with the US Army are there to help. But they are hiding their own secrets and demons. Can they ever be happy again.
Thank you Simon and Schuster for this book, something I may not have picked up on my own.
This story takes place in the aftermath of the war, in the rubble that is left of Berlin. Siblings Millie and David who had escaped to America when they were still kids are now grown and have returned to Germany in service of the United States. Millie is weeding out the Nazis from publishing and David is helping the displaced persons.
Though they hope to find out what happened to the rest of their family and you would think such hardships would draw them closer they have secrets from each other that keep them apart, even as room mates sharing an requisitioned flat. Millie seemed quite cold and unfeeling at first. It was difficult for me to like her, although it eventually became clear why she harbored such ill will towards the Germans even though she herself was one of them.
I mostly enjoyed the story but there were times when it veered off towards secondary characters and plot lines that it did temporarily lose my interest and gave me the urge to skim. It could just be that I have finally had my fill of World War II novels or it could be that this story just didn't flow as well as it could. This is normally my favorite time period for historical fiction so I was really excited to read this book. I received an advance copy
The Living and the Lost is a complex, layered, and moving story that offers a unique perspective on post-war Germany. The author’s writing, especially the imagery and use of flashbacks, immerses you into the protagonist’s journey. The story shows the devastating effects of the war, both physical and emotional, and the fear, anger, destruction, and desperation left behind.
Millie and her brother David managed to get out of Berlin at the start of the war and lived in the United States, but they were separated from their parents and younger sister and have no idea what happened to them. Now Millie and David have both returned to Berlin to help with the post-war de-Nazification efforts and to find out what happened to their parents.
Millie is charged with interviewing people for publishing roles. This might not be the best job for a woman whose guilt and shame over the secret she carries, as well as her hatred for Germans and Germany, defines her. David is a soldier for the American military, though his specific role is unclear for much of the novel.
Post-war Berlin is chaotic, dangerous, and broken, and the author describes the war’s devastating aftermath vividly. Feldman skillfully weaves the past and the present together to create stories within stories. Flashbacks to Millie and David’s time in America and other characters’ experiences during the war slowly reveal what happened to Millie and David, and what led to their separation from their parents and younger sister. Their story, as well as the myriad of other stories in the book, show the horrors and devastation of the war. It also talks about racism and how anti-Semitism permeated all aspects of their lives even when they lived in America and after the war.
All of the characters are survivors, and they struggle with their own demons and go through their own trials and tribulations. Their stories are painful and devastating, and yet there is a glimpse of hope too. It’s an interesting juxtaposition because in the midst of this tragedy and suffering, there are some moving and heart-warming times. For example, Millie experiences a slow-building romance in the story, which is wonderful. Millie goes through so much, and I think her relationship with her love interest helped her grow, heal, and become a little more understanding.
The story explores so many conflicting and confusing emotions experienced by the survivors of the war – guilt, fear, sadness, relief, happiness, anger – and it makes you think about some really thought-provoking questions. How do you find happiness and move on when so many have suffered? How do you move forward? How do you get past the hate and guilt? What d you do when you are living but lost?
A moving story about guilt, forgiveness, and figuring out how to move on when all hope feels lost, this is a powerful and poignant read that I won’t soon forget. I’m so thankful to St. Martin’s Griffin for sending a copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.
I simply love historical fiction when it is good, and trust me, this one is good. In fact, it isn't the typical historical WWII take. This one is rather a breath of fresh air and presents a fresh aspect. The time period is really just after the war and Allied Occupation of Berlin and Germany, and of course the more current day timeline.
I think my fascination with this time period is because of my parents. My father was on a destroyer and was sunk several times.. in fact, he abandoned ship twice in a 26 hour period as he was picked off of the USS Worden up by the Arthur Middleton. Enough about my Daddy's personal history, but I loved his stories about that time period.
This story is about Jewish immigrants (Millie Mosbach and her brother, David) who fled Germany, leaving behind most of their family who is unable to escape, and how those almost grown children grow up and survive in the US while the war rages in Europe. Once grown these very young adults try to jump into the fray to do their part and Millie ends up in Berlin. Her brother, after joining the army is almost interned for being German and then sent to Camp Ritchie, which I knew nothing about. In fact, I had never heard of it. It was a top-secret U.S. Military intelligence training base for foreign-speaking men, mostly Jewish and Nisei women.
Millie and David end up in Berlin together and they work very hard to resolve their understandable hatred of the Germans in a reasonable way. The book moves on after the war and how their lives worked out. I thought it was well written and I really enjoyed it.
Sometimes a book title captures perfectly the intent of a book. This title really hit the mark for me. It captured the story of two individuals still living, and reminded us of those that they had lost and the impact that such a loss made on their lives. I've read one other book by Ellen Feldman which I enjoyed, but this one gripped me from the very beginning and left me reading whenever I could find a spare moment until the story was done.
Set in post war Berlin, the main character of the book is Millie who along with her brother David grew up in Berlin, as part of a Jewish family. At the beginning of the story, Millie and David find themselves together again in Berlin , sharing a flat after being apart through most of the war. They had been lucky enough to escape Germany and move to America shortly before Kristallnacht. It is clear from early on that their story is not a simple one. The author gives the reader more and more details of what their experiences were as time goes by using flashbacks to give a clear picture of all the difficulties they faced both in Germany and in the United States. It was not easy being Jewish in either location.
Millie is back in Germany to try and help determine who would be suitable candidates to work in the publication business be it news or literature in post war Germany. One of her first jobs is to requisition a flat to live in and Millie does it even though it means she is sending a child and family out onto the street with almost no notice. She is torn between hating anything that has anything to do with Germany and the softer side of herself that recognizes things aren't as black and white as they first appear. Many of her co-workers have a similar background to hers. They have good reason to hate those they have to screen. In some characters that hatred bursts out explosively while in others it seems to have moved so far into the back of their lives that it seems almost non-existent.
I found both the postwar and flashback episodes equally mesmerizing. In the past Millie is called Meike, the name she grew up with, which helps to make the transition from present to past. Her story is a fictional one and yet I am sure that it represents the kind of situations that many Jewish people faced in their efforts to survive. Both Millie and her brother carried burdens but each was different even though they grew from the same beginnings. It was heartbreaking to read how damaging their experiences had been to their ability to develop a healthy sense of self esteem especially when they had so many questions about what had happened to those who were left behind. Little details gave me a visceral feeling of how awful things were. Millie offers a bar of soap to a woman who has been in the concentration camps where soap was an unheard of luxury but the woman leaves the soap behind. Why? They heard in the camps that the Germans used body fat from those they killed to make soap. This was a German bar of soap. I felt ill. Another moment that really moved me was when David took Millie to a Bar Mitzvah ceremony. All the synagogues were gone, so where was the ceremony held? In a cemetery because "Where else can you find family and community these days?" Those there to witness the event "saw themselves as celebrants. Standing in that desecrated graveyard, with hunger in their bellies and mourning in their hearts and scars that would never heal on their souls, they were celebrating this one child who had survived, one among millions who had not, but still one, and a cause for joy". This part of the story was a powerful homage to the resilience of those who had survived.
David and Millie were survivors, but their minds and bodies had paid a price for their survival. How does anyone move on from intense trauma? It certainly wasn't easy for either of them and at times I worried that Millie might not survive in the long run. It really emphasized for me how important mental health resources are for those who have lived through such horrendously difficult life experiences. The author summed it up in one scene between Millie and her boss as being like a festering wound eating at them from within. "Loss can be consoled. Pain can be solaced. But there is no comfort for shame. Because shame is not the result of a wrong suffered, but of a wrong committed. Nothing can breach the isolation of that. Not sympathy. Not sex. Not even love." By stories end, Millie was beginning to question that and look to the future and what it might be like.
Feldman began the book with two quotations one from General Dwight Eishenhower in a letter to his wife - "God I hate the Germans"; the other quotation comes from Gerda Weissmann Klein, survivor of a Nazi Slave Labor Camp and 350 mile forced march - "I can hate Germany and all things German with a passion, but I can't hate individuals." Having read the book and looking back on these quotes I can see how Millie moved from one stance to the other. Her road was full of roadblocks and bumps but she was a survivor. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I wish that all students in high school history classes could read it and learn from it.
Many thanks to @NetGalley, St. Martin's Press & Wednesday Books and the author for asking me to read an advance readers copy of this book. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.
This book was just okay for me, and I am very much in the minority here. Most reviewers loved this book. The good points are that it does talk about an aspect of the war that’s not been written about a lot. I very much enjoyed that. I had a hard time connecting with the characters. Sometimes it’s all about timing of when you read a book as to how it hits you, and this very well is probably the case here. Even though it was just okay for me, I do still recommend this book for historical fiction lovers.
My thanks to Ellen Feldman, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review..
Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review.
A brother and sister return to Germany after the war searching for answers as the allied forces set about in reorganizing Berlin. It's a heartfelt and unsettling historical novel. I felt that it truly set itself apart from many different other books I have read about this time period.
Publication Date 07/09/21 Goodreads review published 26/12/21
Ellen Feldman's The Living and the Lost is a must-read! Although WW II historical fiction is a popular genre that is inundated with authors, Feldman's historical fiction stands out for its portrayal of the female protagonist - Meike “Millie” Mosbach - who flees Germany at the tender age of sixteen. Ultimately, they reach the United States and settle into their new lives. Millie begins her career in the publishing industry, while her brother enlists in the army. After the war ends, Millie returns back to Germany to find her estranged loved ones who were separated amidst the chaos of the war as well as helps to weed out Nazis from the publishing industry in post-war Germany.
Feldman's meticulous focus on details and construction of endearing characters makes this book a one-of-a-kind read. I would recommend the novel to anyone who is a fan of historical fiction and enjoys authors such as Kristen Harmel and Pam Jennoff. However, unlike them, Feldman's treatment of the female protagonist stands out as being unique. The author is deeply interested in exploring the after-effects of a country that was plagued with fascism. As we see post-war Germany through Millie's eyes, it's clear that the post-war trauma continues to haunt perhaps even more strongly at the end of the war.
Indeed, as Feldman's title suggests that in post-war Europe, those who did survive the war were haunted by its impact of their lives - they were in many ways lost and continuing to find their bearings in its aftermath.
Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for the advanced reading copy of this timely and valuable novel. The novel went on sale yesterday, Septemebr 7th, and is available for purchase!!
This riveting book is set in Berlin following the end of WWII, at a time when the occupying forces are trying to restore peace and civility to a decimated city and its people. Millie Mosbach was a teenager when she was able to escape Germany just before Kristallnacht, and she has returned to assist the US Army in their efforts of denazification. The aftermath of war permeates every sentence in this book, and Millie herself is an amazing character: a survivor who still maintains hope, but one who is deeply scarred, suffering PTSD and survivor’s guilt, torn between forgiving what was done to her family and country—and mostly trying to forgive herself. I found it fascinating, sad, and shocking to read about this time in history, with the echoes and horrors of the Holocaust in every thought and action of the characters.
This AMAZING historical fiction read is your chance to see post-WW2 Germany through the eyes of a Jewish woman, Meike “Millie” Mosbach, who escaped with her younger brother, David, in 1938, just prior to Kristallnacht.
Desperately seeking peace, the two arrive in Philadelphia, USA where Millie goes into magazine publishing while David begins intelligence training with the U.S. Army. Haunted by memories and unable to attainable peace, they return to Berlin with the U.S. Army in 1945. Millie, riddled with guilt and vengeful, aids the Army in uncovering Nazis from the publishing industry while David attempts to relocate displaced persons. For both siblings, the faint hope remains that they’ll find their parents and younger sister.
The author masterfully captures the rage and guilt of those who took the opportunity to escape, some with little thought to the repercussions, and the emotions they face upon return. It’s this raw emotional struggle that edges its way in and separates the siblings, despite desperately needing support from each other. The author explores the horror and denial that leads to psychological scarring that so many of the living and lost experience during wartime. With invisible injuries, wounds are not confronted nor healed and, what we now term, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), results.
The main plot, although horrific and heartbreaking at times, captivated me more than the characters or the subplots. The vivid descriptions placed me in the setting and allowed me to experience their grief and anger in a powerful way. The author successfully interrupted my day and gave me lots to think about, mainly that we remain living AND lost if we don’t address the past so that we can successfully navigate our future. The thought-provoking title is packed with so much meaning and deserves attention.
You’ll need to read this unique look at de-Nazification, the power of hatred, the effect of war on the human psyche and discover if Millie can ever forgive herself. Publishes September 7, 2021.
I was gifted this advance copy by Ellen Feldman, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
I seek out these WWII historical fiction books. I believe we need to be fully aware of what happened in history in order to learn from it. This new novel by Ellen Feldman showed me a different angle of the war: the period after in what is left of Berlin. Millie works for the US government in a deNazification program. Her brother is in the US Army, stationed in Berlin. They both would love to find their parents and little sister, whom they got separated from while escaping. But they’re aware that the chance of finding them alive is minimal. They also struggle with the guilt that they got out in time and their loved ones didn’t. The processes of each of their duties are fascinating, maybe somewhat slow at times, but this is necessary to convey the frustration and futility of the job. Millie crosses paths with a friend from her childhood in Germany who has lost her young daughter and begs for her help. I found this little side story very fascinating; it doesn’t go as you would think it will. Millie is an independent and strong young woman who has worked hard to recover from the horrors she had seen and to apply her wit and perseverance to correct some of the wrongs that took place under German rule. Her brother David is responsible for a lot more than he has insinuated; he’s a spy with intelligence and has an iron-willed side to him we grow to love. Their anger and frustration with each other, some of the other co-workers, and the German sympathizers that they're trying to weed out wears heavily on their emotions, and the author has a subtle and sincere way of conveying their pain. I enjoyed the historical correctness, the writing style, and the knowledge I gained from this beautifully written novel. Sincere thanks to St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date is September 7, 2021.
4.5 Stars rounded down I really liked this story of siblings Millie and David Mosbach who, having escaped the Nazis just before the start of the war, have returned to Berlin to work, now that the war has ended. And they have hopes of finding their parents and younger sister, who had just been arrested by the Nazis when Millie and David boarded a train to flee the country. Millie is now working for the American military interviewing German citizens for their suitability to work in the publishing business. Millie is often torn, in both her work and in her private life, between hating the Germans that she suspects were supporters of the Nazis, and seeing the humanity in those around her. Not everything is as black and white as Millie has wanted it to be, and how she adapts to new realities is a big part of this story. Millie is not always sure just what David's job is, but she suspects he may be helping with looking for and capturing members of the Nazis who are still around, but in hiding. There are several really powerful moments in this story, mostly centered around the connection Millie and David feel as Jewish survivors of the war with the millions who were lost, and the few who remain to mourn and somehow carry on. This setting in Germany just after the war is a different perspective than others I have read, and added a new way of looking at this time in history. I want to thank Ellen Feldman, St. Martin's Griffin, and Netgalley for the copy of this book I was furnished. I highly recommend this book to all who like historical fiction.
It seems like I have been reading a lot of books about the war, Germany, Jews, and Berlin recently. Maybe my new favorite genre? I don't know. But I do know that I never tire of the stories that so many talented authors have created.
The Living and the Lost is a beautifully written, heartwarming story that is centered around two siblings, Millie and David. They are German Jews who escaped to the United States but then go back to Germany after the war to help the people left behind, while also searching for their parents and little sister.
I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this story. It was interesting to learn about the hardships that were endured and the coping mechanisms that people adopted to get through the tough times. Millie and David each had their own secrets and guilt about the past but they also had each other to lean on.
I highly recommend The Living and the Lost if you are into historical fiction, especially World War 2 history. This is a story that will touch your heart.
The Living and the Lost takes place right after the end of WW2 in Berlin. The main character, Millie, requested to be posted there in order to work in the denazification department, interviewing Germans to determine whether they were just following the rules set by Nazis, or actively participating in them. Millie’s younger brother David is also posted in Berlin, and both of them are there for the same reason: to find the truth, to forgive, and to maybe find some way of getting revenge. Millie and David were born in Germany, and not long before the beginning of the war their father managed to procure exit visas for the 5 members in their family, but for some reason only Millie and David were able to make it to the US safely, the other three left behind to face the building wrath of the Nazis.
I couldn’t put this book down. I really enjoyed how the author didn’t reveal the whole background upfront, the reader learns more and more as the story goes on. I found each of the main characters well developed and endearing, especially Millie. Millie lives with so much turmoil, so many mixed emotions, that it is impossible to not feel for her. Her obsession with frauleins was a bit much for me, but I really appreciated how Ellen Feldman made Millie into someone who the reader really gets.
I thought the setting of the novel was interesting: a country split into pieces, paying for the terrible, horrific crimes it committed against millions, looking for a way to make it into the future. There are the displaced people struggling to survive in a country that wanted them dead, and US soldiers stationed there making the most of it in any way they can, and the German people who may or may not have been Nazis. Nothing is ever black or white and I think the author did a good job portraying that.
If you enjoy historical fiction based in the 1940’s with a little bit of romance thrown in then this will be right up your street! Millie is definitely not your typical 1940’s romance heroine and I really really appreciated that. It gives the novel so much more depth.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
A haunting story of the living and the dead. Is it easier to be the dead or the living haunted by ghosts and nightmares? How far will a human go to save their life? Would they betray their own family?
Millie and David Mosbach , brother and sister, escape to the U.S. from Nazi occupied Germany in the nick of time. After completing school , when the war has ended, they both find themselves employed by the U.S. in their hometowns in Germany, because of their knowledge of Germany and the German language.
What they felt would be a return to their childhood becomes a painful experience instead. They find that prejudice against their race is not only still among the German people, but also within the administration of the programs ran by the U.S.
It is especially painful for Millie who cannot forget what happened all those years ago when they escaped from Germany. She holds the secret in her heart and she cannot forgive herself.
Will they recover from the trauma they suffered during the past, and what they see of those survivors that did not make it out of Germany. Can they conquer their survivor’s guilt and their hatred of the German people, or will it consume them.
A story of past and present history. A history of what happened after the war in Germany. A mention of the elusive camp Ritchie and the men that were trained there to interrogate and extract information from the German prisoners. Many of these men were Jewish men.
It was a good read and it had a good ending, it was a bit slow in spots, but still well worth reading. I would recommend it.
Thanks to Ellen Feldman, St, Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a copy of the book in return for an honest review. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own."
Excellent book! This book reads more as fact, than historical fiction. I was completely engrossed in what I was reading, and at times forgot that it was actually fiction. This book is at times, extremely heartbreaking, but also shows the resilience of the human spirit to carry on after it has suffered so much.
This is the second book that I have read by this author, Ellen Feldman. She definitely has wonderful skills of creating real life flawed characters, describing scene-setting descriptions, and developing plot lines.
It is difficult to say I “enjoyed” this book, since the story was not easy on my mind. I do appreciate the knowledge I gained from reading it and hope that the world does not come to a war as destructive as WWII again.
I want to thank NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for giving me the pleasure of reading the advance reader copy, with no obligation to write a review. My review is written freely as a hobby, and is totally my own opinion, not influenced by receiving the ARC.
In post-war Germany, The Living and the Lost gives us Millie, returning to Germany to help sort survivors. However, sort is a much nicer term for it. Millie is a tough character to like. She’s carrying a lot of guilt for a decision she made in the past, which we don’t learn about until we’re ending the book. I don’t feel that there was any reason to put off learning about what this decision was. If anything, it exacerbated this disconnect I felt from her, but that feels planned by the author.
Millie is self-pitying; she’s tightly wound, to the point it puts everyone around her on edge. She’s willfully blind to most things around her because she has an agenda, and no one will change her perspective. For those reasons, it’s hard to like her as a character. But you don’t have to love a character to like the story. Mainly because this is an aspect of the war that isn’t often written about in historical fiction. This book will wring out a lot of emotions in the readers. Thank you, St. Martin’s, for sending this along.
I really liked The Living and the Lost. I enjoyed learning about Millie's life as she went back to Berlin to lay the past to rest. A very interesting story about the Allied Occupation of Berlin and the part that Jewish GI's played in it and the war. One of my favorite parts of the story is about Millie's cousin Anna. I enjoy this Authors work and will continue to read her books. #TheLivingandtheLost #NetGalley
I give The Living and the Lost 4 stars for its interesting story. I would recommend this book to Historical Fiction fans.
This book got to me. It was hard to read, not at all because it wasn't good. In fact, it was so realistic that I had to put it down and get back to my life.
This book is strong and is full of the issues that were existing right after WWII in Germany. It is told from an American perspective and will sweep you back to 1945. I loved it! It has stuck with me. The characters were so real to me that they're alive in my head. I love it when a book does that. The author did a fantastic job of bringing the book to life!
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press, St. Martin's Griffin for the opportunity to read and provide an honest review of this book.
I won an ARC. I had a really hard time getting into this book. Halfway through, I was about ready to put it down but I decided I made it that far, I should finish it. Glad I did, it got so much better. I’ve read a lot of WWII historical fiction so I loved that this book covered post war Berlin. A change from the typical WWII books. I don’t feel it flowed very well between characters at times. Even halfway through, I still wasn’t sure about the main plot of the story.
I have not encountered a novel that explores postwar Berlin in quite this manner. At first the tone of bitterness and hatred was almost overwhelming. However, as I kept reading, it became clear those emotions were justified on for many reasons. It's hard to say you "enjoy" a book with this type of subject but it was a powerful read about a past that should not be overlooked or forgotten.
I haven’t read many, if any, stories related to what went on after WWII. This one came to me after a break in reading. It will stick with me. I was horrified yet spellbound. I just don’t have words for it. I think it’s one of the best books I’ve read all year.
Another winner in the immersive tales of war sequelae that Feldman does so well.
‘The Living and the Lost’ shows us immediate post-war Berlin through the eyes of Meike, a young Jewish woman working for the Allie denazification program while searching for her remaining kin and stumbling—sometimes literally—across her own half-buried past. Meike (now called Millie) and her brother David were separated from their parents and younger sister when the family was fleeing to America before the war.
Fostered by an American family friend of their father’s, they became well-educated, well fed naturalized American adults. Now back in Berlin, Meike is working for the Americans and David is serving with them as an interrogator, both trying to sort the ‘good Germans’ from the ‘bad Nazis’ while not quite believing in the existence of the former. Many of their co-workers are German Jews, the lucky few who escaped Europe and are now back with their hopes, their losses, their terrors. The surroundings—half familiar streets and parks, the other half unrecognizable ruins—mirror their internal landscapes.
The imagery is unsparing but never wallows: gaunt survivors both from the camps and in the bombed and crumbling cities; women raped so many times sex has lost all meaning, willing to trade it to anyone for a bite of food or a chance to sleep warm that night; Allied soldiers well fed and hard-hearted against a population that conspired to actively aid or passively look away from atrocities committed in their name; ‘the licentiousness of those who’d gone so numb to pain and death that only a moment of pleasure, or at least gratification, could light a spark of life.”
The strength of the character Meike is that she is at once a recognizable, fortunate Americanized woman with whom modern readers can readily identify and an internally shattered escapee from the Holocaust that rended families, communities, and countries on a scale never previously documented. She walks in several worlds---her post-war current life, her Berlin childhood, her American adolescence, her life as a Jew in each of those countries, her simultaneous and emotionally fractured existence as a guilt-ridden survivor/refugee, a vengeful victor, and a damaged victim of unimaginable losses—and takes the reader with her every step of the way.
It's a fascinating journey both internally and externally. Post-war Berlin is crowded with angry or sullen or defeated Germans, with many thousands of Displaced Persons both civilian and liberated from concentration camps. Housing is in short supply, food scarce, and every commodity imaginable has a price on the flourishing black markets. Surviving Jews burn with understandable rage against the Germans who went along as much as against those who fomented and committed the atrocities. Arrogance and preconceptions from Allied soldiers and civilian advisors often fuel further misunderstanding and resentment from the conquered, the liberated, the shell-shocked, and all the other human flotsam of the war.
The thread of pregnancy and child-rearing is woven into the fabric. Following a time of catastrophic losses of lives each new one feels like it should be celebrated, yet so many are the result of Soviet mass rape, or the unwelcome price of the struggle for food and shelter, relics of wartime affairs that are soon forgotten by soldiers on their way back to the lives they left behind. Babies die, Meike learns, almost as easily in the peace as they did in the war. And in the post-war baby boom is laced with both hope for a new start and terror at making more hostages to a Fate so recently proved not only fickle but utterly merciless.
As in other Feldman novels, the many social and political and personal complexities are captured neatly in vignettes that offer glimpses into the turbulent times and the people wracked and drifting through them, all while supporting the main narrative of Meike’s physical and psychological search. There are both losses and wins along the way, people found and reunited only to face new struggles from which they, or their relationships, may not emerge victorious, or at all. It's a human-scale look at a turbulent time and place—unsparing yet sympathetic—through the eyes of a traumatized but ultimately hopeful survivor.
The Living and the Lost is the first book I've read by Ellen Feldman. I've read a number of World War II fiction novels, but this is the first I've experienced dealing with Allied occupied Berlin post-WWII, most particularly the denazification of Germany. It brings to life the horrors of man's inhumanity to man...but also invokes the powers of hope and forgiveness.
Millie Mosbach and her brother David escaped from Berlin right before Kristallnacht, leaving both parents and their very young sister behind. The young German Jews made new lives in the US - Millie went to college then worked for a magazine, while David went to school then joined the Army. However, now they both are back in their hometown of Berlin, a bombed-out city filled with desperate people. Millie works in an office that roots out dedicated Nazis from publishing. David works with Displaced Persons, though he has secret activities that he doesn't share with his sister. Like many German Jews, they feel hatred for Germans and also survivor's guilt. Millie, especially, has honed her hatred and has changed into a seemingly uncaring woman. Her boss, Major Harry Sutton, seems to treat the Germans fairly; this Millie simply cannot understand. She is confronted by her past and must learn to deal with an untenable decision she had to make when she left Berlin all those years ago, with the help of Major Sutton.
This story was absolutely heart wrenching and also depressing, truth be told, until Millie began to deal with her past. It was very hard to like her at first; you could understand her hatred because of the way the Third Reich and many German citizens treated the Jews, but all she saw was black and white. When she requisitioned a home and turned a woman and her child out, she had absolutely no sympathy. Millie had some emotional breaks when at the train station, as she was assaulted by memories. Major Sutton always appeared when Millie needed help, and seemed to understand her internal conflict. David worked hard with the displaced persons, but he kept his noble nocturnal activities from his sister; she believed he was fraternizing with the Frauleins. Major Sutton was by far my favorite character; he had his own past he had to deal with that helped him understand Millie. One is battered reading about the concentration and death camps, plus the rape of German women by the Soviet soldiers. (I have visited Auschwitz and saw proof of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. It's even more brutal than you can infer from this story, though the author did a marvelous job showing the effects of hatred.). The anti-Semitism in the US that was shown was also disturbing. However, Millie's journey from hatred to forgiveness (and self-forgiveness) shows the resilience and hope of the human heart, and is truly satisfying.
I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley. I received no compensation for my review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own.