Rita Goldberg's mother was a Holocaust survivor whose epic escapes from the Nazis were worthy of a film script. But like many children of camp survivors, Rita has also been affected profoundly by her experience.
An Evening with Rita Goldberg at Waterstones, Hampstead
Hear Rita Goldberg read from and discuss her compelling and acutely personal memoir, emerging from a lifetime of reflection and a decade of research.
Tuesday 18th March 2014, 7pm
'...an exemplary attempt to confront the complex fate of these families cut
brutally from their own history. "Motherland" is a double memoir that
braids her parents' story with her own, and succeeds in articulating a
difficult truth. While the suffering was not hers, but her parents', it
has nonetheless had a corrosive effect on her life.'
Motherland: Growing Up with the Holocaust
Like Anne Frank, Hilde Jacobsthal was born in Germany and brought up in Amsterdam, where the two families became close. Unlike Anne Frank, she survived the war, and Otto Frank was to become godfather to Rita, her first daughter.
“I am the child of a woman who survived the Holocaust not by the skin of her teeth but heroically. This book tells the story of my mother’s dramatic life before, during and after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.
“I wrote Motherland because I wanted to understand a story which had become a kind of family myth. My mother’s life could be seen as a narrative of the twentieth century; along with my father she was present and active at many of its significant moments.” Rita Goldberg
Hilde Jacobsthal was fifteen when the Nazis invaded Holland. After the arrest of her parents in 1943 she fled to Belgium, where she went into hiding and worked with the Resistance at night. She was liberated by the American army in 1944. In April 1945 she volunteered with a British Red Cross Unit to go to the relief of Bergen-Belsen, which had itself been liberated one week before her arrival. The horror and devastation were overwhelming, but despite her shock and grief she stayed at the camp for two years, helping with the enormous task of recovery. Sorrow and exuberance went hand in hand as the young people at Belsen found renewed life and each other. Hilde got to know Hanns Alexander (subject of the recently published Hanns and Rudolf), who was on the British War Crimes Commission, and, eventually, a Swiss doctor called Max Goldberg.
Motherland is the culmination of a lifetime of reflection and a decade of research. Rita Goldberg enlarges the story she heard from her mother with historical background. She has talked with her about the minutest details of her life and pored over her papers, exploring not only her mother's life but her own.
Complicated feelings are explored lightly as Rita takes the story beyond Bergen-Belsen, where paradoxically her parents met and fell in love; beyond Israel’s War of Independence where they both volunteered, and on to the next chapter of their lives in the US.
A deeply moving story, Motherland will become an essential text about World War II, the Holocaust and the survival of the spirit.
Born in Basel in 1949, Rita grew up mostly in the US, with two early years in Germany where her father was a US Army psychiatrist. She taught literature at Essex and Cambridge for nearly ten years and now teaches comparative literature at Harvard, where her British-born husband, Oliver Hart, is a professor of economics. They have two sons and two grandsons and live in Lexington, Massachusetts.