Odyssey of a Child Survivor: From Latvia Through the Camps to the United States by George David Schwab
George David Schwab’s life began as a cosseted child leading a charmed and comfortable life in the 1930s. He recreates his childhood in pre-war Latvia, giving it vivid life in detailed memories of an extended, accomplished, and adventurous family of aunts, uncles, cousins and delightful descriptions of outings, with a child’s view of the joy of cafes, tennis clubs, and swimming in the bracing waters of the Baltic Sea.
The 1940s brought World War II and Soviet occupation of Latvia followed by the Nazis. George relates his and the family’s terror and grief when his father, a well-known gastroenterologist, is murdered by the Nazis. He, his mother, a musician, and his older brother are shipped with other Latvian Jews to German concentration and work camps in cattle cars. George gives a sheltered child’s view of his experiences: separation, death, despair, cold and hunger-with one constant: terror.
Reunited with his mother at the end of the war, they emigrate to the United States of America where relatives welcome them. Reestablishing their lives, they visit relatives, George attends high school, lifeguards at Coney Island, develops a deepening awareness of Jewish culture and what it means to be Jewish, becomes involved with the Stern Gang, and begins his studies at City College of New York.
Academic intrigue and politics swirl around his graduate studies at Columbia-culminating in the rejection of his Ph.D. thesis on the controversial German constitutional lawyer and political and legal theorist Carl Schmitt. Ultimately, George triumphs academically with his second dissertation on neutral countries and nuclear weapons.
Marriage, fatherhood (triplet boys), family life, disproportionate in-law issues, career, association with Hans Morgenthau and the National Committee on American Foreign Policy fill the years. In the early 1980s, after the death of Morgenthau, George takes over the intellectual leadership of the National Committee. He recounts the Committee’s influence and involvement with many diplomatic initiatives; a major triumph is the brokering of peace in Northern Ireland.
Finally, after many years, George capitulates to Elie Wiesel’s insistence that it is his duty to write his memoirs. Odyssey of a Child Survivor: From Latvia through the Camps to the United Statesis George David Schwab’s moving witness and testimony to the Holocaust, and his renewed life after the horrors he endured.
Year first published: 2021