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Title: Searching for Home: The Impact of WWII on a Hidden Child
Author: Joseph Gosler
Published: 3rd of May 2020 – Amsterdam Publishers
Format: Kindle Edition – 276 pages
“Every street had a story to tell. If the cobble stones could talk, you would hear the screams, moans and whispers of those who remained and those who were taken away.” – Searching For Home
Hello Hello! How are you?
Today I’m bringing you a bit of a different review! A few months back I took part in a blog tour for the book Living Among the Dead: My Grandmother’s Holocaust Survival Story of Love and Strength by Adena Bernstein Astrowsky, published by Amsterdam Publishers who are specialised in Holocaust Memoirs. After my review for that book was published on my blog, Liesbeth from Amsterdam Publishers reached out to me to ask me if I would like to review any more of their books. I’m very interested in WWII and haven’t read very many nonfiction books about this time period, so I jumped at the chance!
The war ends and Josje is returned to his parents. “Who are these people who call themselves my parents,” he imagines. He is three years old and feels abandoned, confused and angry. He wants to return to his “real” parents who loved and sheltered him during the war. “My name is Pietje Dijkstra not Josje Gosler!” he states tearfully when goaded by his cousin.
As a Jew and a Hidden Child, his innocence protected him as much as his Christian family. At seven months of age, for his own safety as well as his parents’, he was given to a young nursing student from the Dutch resistance, and placed with the Dijkstra family in Wageningen.
Searching for Home: The Impact of WWII on a Hidden Child by Joseph Gosler is a Holocaust memoir which tells the life story of the author, a child who was hidden from the Nazis during WWII.
I always go into memoirs with some scepticism. I struggle to rate them because sometimes it feels like I’m rating that person’s life when I’m not, so it’s always a quite difficult topic to discuss and accurately rate. However, the first couple of pages of this book really drew me in and I liked the structure of this book, there were no chronological issues as I have seen in other memoirs where the stories jumps back and forth through the person’s life, and instead, here, Joseph Gosler narrated his life, events, feelings and emotions from his birth to the present day.
I will say that it’s always complicated to review a book such as this. I found the writing style to be very fluid, I didn’t always find everything said to be necessary to bring the message across, but I did find the book to be well written and human. A lot of the time, in books talking about WWII and its impact on the individual as well as the whole world, I find that these events are described in a way that doesn’t really make sense, and knowing that this war and the atrocities done to people during it, especially to Jews and other religious groups and minorities, tended to dehumanise them to extremes never before witnessed, it seems strange to me that in writing a memoir about this time, the dehumanisation would continue. In this book, however, thankfully, there was no dehumanisation and I found myself understanding and empathising with the author all the more because he did not hold back his emotions or dehumanise himself and others.
I really enjoyed the structure of this book, it was separated in a few parts, the biggest were separated by the places in which they were set. The first part of the story is set in the Netherlands, when Joseph was born, was “hidden” with another family, and then given back to his parents after the war was over. The second part of the story was set in Israel where the family moved to after the war was over and where they lived in a kibbutz, a type of community where everything is shared with all the members and the children live in dormitories together. The third part of the book was set in America, where the family and extended family members emigrated to after leaving Israel. This last timeline is the longest and most profound in my opinion because it encompasses Joseph’s adolescence, his puberty, coming to terms with anger, loss, pain and other psychological consequences of WWII learning about himself and his passions, discovering more to life and cultures, travelling, finding work and eventually settling down with a family.
This book focuses more on the actual impact – hence the title – of the war rather than the war itself, and I found this really intriguing because it’s clear to see that the people who survived this war suffered profoundly after its end, whether physically scarred or mentally scarred. It really gave me an insight into the atrocities of the war on a more individual level and how Joseph has suffered from depression, anxiety, fear, loss, loneliness, hopelessness and many other feelings since his return to his biological parents after the end of the war. I don’t want to explain too much about the actual story of his life because I believe it needs to be experienced first-hand. I will say that it is a very emotional account and I found this to make this book special. I’ve read a lot of books set before, during and after WWII, not many nonfictional ones, but the ones I have read seemed lacking emotionally to me, and this one was very different for me.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it brought me a lot of insight into what life would have been like and still is for Jewish survivors of WWII. It’s very important to understand the enormous consequences that this event had on the lives of so many people. We can possibly understand what people like Joseph went through while they were hidden children and the multiple feelings he has felt throughout his life because of that experience, but by reading about it and trying to understand the impact, we can do our best to not let anything like this happen again in the future.
It was a really profound experience for me and I’ve enjoyed reading the books published by Amsterdam Publishers because of their focus on Holocaust survivors. I have learned a lot more about this period by the emotional narration by individuals than any history book or historical account I could ever read and I think that people need this side of the story to fully understand this event that changed the world. I gave this book 4 stars, again, it’s really hard to rate a book like this one, I enjoyed it immensely and am very honoured to have been able to read it.
Thank you so much to Liesbeth for reaching out to me and providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. I look forward to reading more books by this publisher and urge you to do the same if you like me have an interest in WWII and would like a more personal and individual account of history.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this review, see you soon, stay safe,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – JOSEPH GOSLER
Joseph Gosler was born in Groningen, the Netherlands during WWII and after the war, he migrated to Israel with his family and subsequently to the United States, where he has lived since. His life’s journey has been a circuitous one and as a result, he has often meandered off the main road. This is best exemplified by the 20 plus years it took him to achieve his BA in History and MBA in corporate finance through the City University of New York.
For nearly 40 years he has worked in educational settings ranging from daycare centres to private schools in the capacity of Business Manager. He and his wife founded a pre-school called Beginnings Nursery, have one son and live in New York City.
Mr Gosler retired from Friends Seminary in 2004, and today is actively involved in several Quaker projects, writing, gardening, travelling and walking his dog. “Searching for Home”, describing his life as a Hidden Child, is his international debut.
If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK (affiliate link) – Amazon FR (affiliate link) – AbeBooks (affiliate link) – The Book Depository (affiliate link) – Amazon US – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Amsterdam Publishers