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And Peace Never Came

Elisabeth M. Raab

Publication Year: 1997

“It is Easter Sunday, April 1945, early in the morning, maybe just dawn. We stand still, like frozen grey statues. Us. Seven hundred and thirty women, wrapped in wet, grey, threadbare blankets, standing in the rain. Our blankets hang over our heads, drape down to the soil. We hold them closed with our hands from the inside, leaving only a small opening to peer out, so that we save the precious warmth of our breath.” (from Chapter 5)

So begins the author’s sojourn, her search for freedom that begins with the chaotic barrenness in which she found herself after her liberation on Easter Sunday, April 1945, and takes her across several continents and half a lifetime.

Raab paints a brief yet moving picture of her idyllic life before her internment and the shock and the horrors of Auschwitz, but it is in the images of life after her liberation, that Raab imparts her most poignant story — a story told in a clear, almost sparse, always honest style, a story of the brutal, and, at times, the beautiful facts of human nature.

This book will appeal to a number of audiences — to readers interested in human nature under the most trying circumstances, to historians of World War II or Jewish history, to veterans and their families who lived through World War II, and to those interested in politics and the evils of political extremism.

Shortlisted for the 1998 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-fiction.

Winner of the 1999 Jewish Book Committee award for best Holocaust memoir.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Life Writing


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

My special gratitude to Sheila Robinson for her editing acumen and insight, for her consistent wise ways in prompting me to unfold enough to finish this book. I am thankful to Maria Gould, my first teacher, for her supportive encouragement to write and to continue to do so. ...

Five Years' Passage

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pp. ix

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pp. 1

Why? Why am I writing this now after so much time has gone by? Why now, when what happened has become common knowledge? Why now, when the sufferings in the world have lost their ability to shock us, when inhumanity and atrocity are no longer any secret? Why my story, when there are countless ...

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Our Window

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pp. 3

We often stand at the window, our favourite place, looking out with trusting tenderness toward the stamped-down, sandy roads of our village, Szemere, in the Transdanubia of Hungary. Springtime or winter, sunshine or snowfall, trees bare or rich with leaves, we are at one with the calmness of the ...

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pp. 5-13

She is not with us anymore. "Nora passed away peacefully in her sleep" was the message that travelled through the ether from overseas. Was there a better way to say it? A gentler way to bring the news to me? Why didn't I stay with her longer on my last visit? She wanted me to stay. ...

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Who in Their Right Mind...?

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pp. 15-28

Ever since the beginning of the 1930s we have heard the thunder from within the German borders; it has echoed as far east as Hungary and beyond, but we don't believe it will develop into a full-fledged storm. Naively, we tell ourselves that the blustering, the fist-brandishing demagoguery against the ...

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The Narrowing Circle

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pp. 29-42

On the way to Magyarovar, the gendarmes stop the horse-drawn wagons and read aloud the names on their list. Neither my name nor Kati's is read out. The District Attorney left our names off, but didn't dare to tell us. And now I am there with the others. My smart Aunt Flora says, "Boske, don't ...

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Number 168

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pp. 43-57

I notice one day through my apathy the new faces that were driven into our barracks by the SS. I discover Hanna and Eszter among them. We are weak, incapable of emotions, but we register some comfort that at last we are together in the same barracks. ...

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From the Ashes

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pp. 59-77

It is Easter Sunday, April 1945, early in the morning, maybe just dawn. We stand still, like frozen grey statues. Us. Seven hundred and thirty women, wrapped in wet, grey, threadbare blankets, standing in the rain. Our blankets hang over our heads, drape down to the soil. We hold them closed with our ...

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What Remains

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pp. 79-92

It might have started on a specially hungry day, this recalling of recipes. "Chocolate, eggs, the nuts and the butter." "Stir it till fluffy. . . ." "... fold it carefully. . . ." Around us everything was grey. The factory, the machines, the sky, the women, their faces, their tattered rags; all was grey, hopelessly ...

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The Return

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pp. 93-108

Months later, Hanna manages to get a letter to me. It begins, "Dear lonely bird." She writes that she and her husband found each other, that they settled in the family business house, that they have a circle of young friends to get together and socialize with, and that she has clothes and things ...

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pp. 109-120

After I have spent eight days in Pecs, Eszter still hasn't shown up. We worry and we don't know what to think, but restlessness overcomes me. I won't wait. Instead, I promise Hanna to come back again. By then, I am sure, I'll find Eszter there, too. I take the rickety train again, travelling at night to ...

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In Transit

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pp. 121-131

The taxi drives into a Hungarian peasant farmer's backyard. It is the last frontier village on Hungarian soil. Apparently, the farmer anticipates us, as his horse is already harnessed to the wagon and hammering impatiently with his hoof. ...

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pp. 133-145

Anew chapter in my life begins at the end of November 1946. I finally arrive in Nathan's family apartment in Westfalen. His sister Frimetka and her husband, and his brother Shmulek and his wife, welcome me as if I were a long-absent family member finally returned. Frimetka, seeing me, says, "I have been waiting here impatiently, because I know ...

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pp. 147-155

In August of 1948, after close to five years have been taken out of our lives in Germany, we pack our meagre suitcases and leave for Paris to pick up our visas at the Ecuadorian consulate. My brother and his family come too. ...

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pp. 157-160

It is now 1994, almost fifty years from the day I was abruptly removed from my established habitat, ripped away from my loved ones, stripped of everything that made up my life, dumped like trash into a forsaken place to find myself in the fire of purgatory, and left with nothing but naked existence: a ...

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The Visit—My Other Self

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pp. 161-187

On one of the last days of April 1987, I make another visit to loved and shunned memories. My cousin Ivan is driving me to Budapest from Dunajska-Streda, which used to be in Hungary before the war but is now in Czechoslovakia. It feels simultaneously familiar and unreal to be here; it is the way I ...

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Historical Notes to And Peace Never Came

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pp. 189-196

Gyorszemere, usually referred to as Szemere, is a village directly south of the large industrial city Gyor, situated in the Transdanubian Kisalfold, or Little Plain. Elisabeth Raab fled her marital home in Pecs and returned to her parents in Szemere when the Germans invaded. She was vulnerable there. Just a few kilometres north ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780889206403
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889202924
Print-ISBN-10: 0889202923

Page Count: 205
Publication Year: 1997

Series Title: Life Writing

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Subject Headings

  • Holocaust survivors -- Canada.
  • Jews -- Hungary -- Biography.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Hungary -- Personal narratives.
  • Raab, Elisabeth M., 1921-.
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