By Patricia Zick @PCZick
I interviewed Christoph Fischer in June on Author Wednesday. Today I review his novel The Luck of the Weissensteiners.
History of the twentieth century was one of my major areas of study in college. However, the history I studied presented an ethnocentric view of World War II. Of course, I know about Hitler’s rise to power, and the major steps he took in Europe prior to our entry into the war. I understood the political and social ramifications. I understood the uneasy alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan. But I only knew of these histories from the perspective of the first, isolationist United States, and then, as the full-speed ahead entry into the war heroes who saved the world from the evil Axis powers.
Reading Christoph Fischer’s The Luck of the Weissensteiners presented another view of that period through the camera lens of people living in Eastern Europe. The book shows people from all the different perspectives before, during, and after the war. It’s an eye-opening read to learn that the United States wasn’t the center of this war. In the lives of these ordinary folks, the United States played an almost peripheral role.
The Luck of the Weissensteiners exposes how the Eastern Europeans reacted with a wide range of attitudes and actions as the war tore apart families and friends and allowed no trust to exist in all the varied relationships. There may have been a world war taking place on the larger stage, but for the characters in Fischer’s novel, it is a civil war being fought, and the lines are blurred and often changing, depending on who’s in charge.
Jews and Gentiles fall in love and marry, which creates a problem when Hitler’s master plan begins to take effect, even in countries where he’s not invaded. . .yet. The propaganda used to smear the very genes of Jews causes one husband to question the moral integrity of his wife. He buys the line of inherently weak genes so much he even takes their son away – a son who is Aryan in looks, leaving behind his Jewish wife and their unborn child. The atmosphere of fear changes people, oftentimes not for the better.
Through it, all one family stands strong.
This book’s retelling of the history of this period in Europe is personalized through the characters that represent a cross section of the lives impacted by the atrocities of war. Jews, Gentiles, Germans, Slovakians, lesbians, and traitors all point to one direction. War never makes much sense when the individual lives of its victims are examined. Neither side wins when people are persecuted for their religion, political beliefs, nationality, or sexual orientations.
It’s a sad commentary on the human condition when a people are forced to hide their identities behind forged passports, and then forced to throw away the forgeries to appease the winning side. When it comes down to it in the aftermath of the war and the liberation of Europe, all individuals are suspect, and mankind is taken down a notch.
Christoph Fischer has written an important book for its historical perspective. He personified the vagaries of war through the fictional characters. At times, it reads like a history book, but before it bogs down into a lesson in civics, he comes back to the individuals experiencing the actual effects of the persecution.
As always, we study and examine the past so we don’t forget it. As long as genocide exists in the world, we must do as Fischer has done in his novel – remind us, and remind us again, that our faith, our color, our language, and our life choices should matter not a wit. In the end, it’s our integrity and how we treat others that matters the most.
Thank you, Christoph, for writing this important book to remind us never to repeat the mistakes of the past.