Alex's Wake

The Tragic Voyage of the St. Louis to Flee Nazi Germany-and a Grandson’s Journey of Love and Remembrance


By Martin Goldsmith

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Alex's Wake is a tale of two parallel journeys undertaken seven decades apart. In the spring of 1939, Alex and Helmut Goldschmidt were two of more than 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany aboard the St. Louis, “the saddest ship afloat” (New York Times). Turned away from Cuba, the United States, and Canada, the St. Louis returned to Europe, a stark symbol of the world's indifference to the gathering Holocaust. The Goldschmidts disembarked in France, where they spent the next three years in six different camps before being shipped to their deaths in Auschwitz.

In the spring of 2011, Alex's grandson, Martin Goldsmith, followed in his relatives' footsteps on a six-week journey of remembrance and hope, an irrational quest to reverse their fate and bring himself peace. Alex's Wake movingly recounts the detailed histories of the two journeys, the witnesses Martin encounters for whom the events of the past are a vivid part of a living present, and an intimate, honest attempt to overcome a tormented family legacy.



Setting Forth

THAT TIMELESS AMERICAN TRAVELER, Huckleberry Finn, introduces himself this way: “You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly.” Some years ago, I made a book by the name of The Inextinguishable Symphony and told the story of my father and mother. In that book, my father mostly appeared as a young man named Günther Ludwig Goldschmidt who, by dint of good fortune and dogged persistence, escaped Nazi Germany and arrived on Ellis Island in June 1941. Shortly thereafter, he changed his name to George Gunther Goldsmith, and he and his young wife Rosemary began their lives in The Land of the Free. It’s a good book, I think, and I’m proud of it. And, yes, I told the truth, mainly.

I finished writing The Inextinguishable Symphony on December 31, 1999, just as the clock crept toward the close of a century as brutal and bloody as any in the history of our glorious and unhappy planet. The book was published in September 2000, and I began what my wife generously calls “The Never-Ending Book Tour.” I’m pleased to say that I have made well over a hundred appearances on behalf of the book, speaking from one end of the United States to the other and in such foreign cities as Toronto, Berlin, and St. Petersburg. I mention these facts not in a spirit of self-aggrandizement so much as to give weight to the additional fact that in nearly every city I am asked, “So, after writing this book, what has happened to your Jewish identity? And what was your father’s reaction to the book?” I’m not sure I realized it at the time, but my attempts to answer those questions represented the first stirrings of the journey that has resulted in the making of this book.

I think that my father had a rather ambivalent reaction to The Inextinguishable Symphony. He was pleased at its favorable reception, happy for my opportunities to discuss it, and honored to have been the subject of the book, but I think it also made him profoundly uncomfortable, and in no small measure ashamed. In many ways, Günther Goldschmidt is the hero of the book. George Goldsmith, however, didn’t feel like a hero. Mr. Mark Twain would have called that heroic portrait a “stretcher” of the truth, and, much as it pains me to acknowledge it, he would have been right.

George’s father, my grandfather Alex Goldschmidt, and his younger brother, my uncle Klaus Helmut Goldschmidt, were two of the more than nine hundred Jewish refugees who attempted to flee Nazi Germany in May 1939 on board an ocean liner called the St. Louis. The fate of that ship commanded global attention for a few weeks that spring—the New York Times declared it “the saddest ship afloat today”—as it attempted to find safe harbor in an unwelcoming world. After more than a month at sea, my grandfather and uncle found themselves in France, where they would remain for the next three years. They spent time in a number of different settlements, each less hospitable than the last, before being shipped to their deaths at Auschwitz in August 1942.

Alex had spent four years fighting in the muddy, ghastly trenches of the First World War, achieving the distinction of the Iron Cross, First Class from a presumably grateful German government. In the uneasy peace that followed the Great War, he achieved success as a businessman and parlayed his profitable women’s clothing store into a lofty position in the emerging society of his adopted hometown of Oldenburg. Never one to allow life’s circumstances to dictate terms to him where he could help it, Alex was a man of forthright action and blunt expression. Even while caught in the snares of his French imprisonment, he wrote impassioned letters to those in charge, stating the case for his freedom and that of his younger son. And he sent letters to his older son, my father, to spur him into action on their behalf.

In his very last letter to George, Grandfather Alex recounted the horrors he and Helmut had endured since boarding the St. Louis more than three years earlier. With all the pent-up pain and frustration of his captivity flowing through his pen, Alex concluded, “I have already described our situation for you several times. This will be the last time. If you don’t move heaven and earth to help us, that’s up to you, but it will be on your conscience.”

My father and mother had managed to emigrate to the United States in June 1941. They had survived as Jews in Germany until then because of their status as musicians in an all-Jewish performing arts organization called the Kulturbund. Once in America, they both found menial jobs: my mother as a domestic, cooking and cleaning houses for twelve dollars a week, and my father working in a factory where he cut zippers out of discarded pants and polished them on a wheel, reconditioning them so that they could serve again in the flies of new trousers. For this, he was paid fourteen dollars a week. They didn’t have much, but they occasionally sent as much as twenty-five dollars, nearly a full week’s salary, via Quaker intermediaries to the camps in France to try to ease the burden of Alex and Helmut.

But did my father do as much as he could have on his family’s behalf? Did he, as his father had implored him, “move heaven and earth”? Probably not. In the late summer of 1941, my parents landed jobs performing at a music festival in Columbia, South Carolina. They took the train from their home in New York City down to Columbia, passing through Washington, D.C., on their journeys south and north. Neither time did my father disembark in the capital to visit the halls of Congress, where he might have found an important ally who could have helped him to fill out the proper form or contact the right immigration officer who might have reached the exact authority in France in time to ensure that Alex and Helmut never boarded that fateful train to Auschwitz. There were reasons aplenty why every effort under the sun might have failed to win his family’s freedom, but the inescapable fact remains that Alex begged his son to save his life and my father failed to do so.

“It will be on your conscience,” wrote Alex, and Alex was right. In 1945, with the end of the war, the grisly newsreels appeared, documenting the full range of the atrocities that the Nazis had perpetrated, unspeakable crimes that included the murders of my father’s family as five among the six million. In addition to Alex and Helmut, dead in Auschwitz, there were Toni and Eva, my grandmother and aunt, deported to Riga, and my father’s Grandmother Behrens, murdered in Terezin. The next year, my father gave up his flute and the music profession that he loved in favor of a job selling furniture in a department store, an act of penance for his failure to save his family. In a revealing letter, sent late in his life, my father wrote, “The unanswered question which disturbs me most profoundly and which I shall carry to my own death is whether through an enormous last-minute effort I could have saved my father and brother from their horrible end.”

The guilt that my father carried he passed on to my brother, Peter, and me as our emotional inheritance. The violent fates of their families (my mother, an only child, lost her mother to the camp at Trawniki) were a subject my parents assiduously avoided in my early years. No doubt they wished to protect Peter and me from the truth, for fear that we might have trouble sleeping at night or developing a sense of trust. How little they suspected that, even without words, we could feel and absorb the unspoken pain that circulated like dust in the air of our home, and how much we were aware of the darkness, the enormous unknown yet deeply felt secret that obscured the light of the truth.

My parents’ way of dealing with their guilt and sadness was to deny it and keep it hidden. But secrets derive a significant part of their power from silence and shame. “They died in the war,” was my father’s curt reply to my brother’s direct question about why, unlike all our friends, we couldn’t visit our grandparents at Christmas or birthdays. There was nothing more, no stories, no reassurances that their fate would not be ours. And there was no acknowledgment that we were Jews, despite that being the singular reason for our family’s violent dismemberment. When I, as a teenager, discovered our religious roots, my father dismissed it all by declaring that we were, at most, “so-called Jews.” He did not choose to regard himself as a Jew, despite the unavoidable fact that he’d been bar mitzvahed, that his parents were both Jews, and that he and his wife had both performed in an all-Jewish orchestra. “Adolf Hitler thought I was a Jew, so I had no choice. I choose to exercise that choice now. I am not a Jew,” he said.

As I grew to manhood, I became aware of my inherited guilt. In my forties, I began to research the story of my parents’ lives in Germany and of their families’ lives as well, a tale that I told in The Inextinguishable Symphony. But over the years since that book’s publication, I have come to see that tale as only the starting point of a journey of self-discovery that I unknowingly began the moment I first asked a question about what happened to my family.

I’ve come to feel a deep need to connect with that vanished generation, with those members of my family who were murdered a decade before I was born. In one of his letters, my grandfather acknowledged that he was writing on the morning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. He obviously self-identified as a Jew. So I began to explore Judaism, partly as a purely spiritual quest, but mostly as a way to reach back through those vanished years to try to touch my grandfather. When I heard the Kol Nidre prayer intoned on Yom Kippur, my eyes would fill with tears because of the melancholy beauty of the melody, and also because I knew that, once upon a time, my grandfather had heard that same melody on that same holy night. In the autumn of 2006, I began a twenty-month course of study, discussion, and learning that culminated in my becoming a Son of the Commandment, a Bar Mitzvah Boy, at the age of fifty-five.

With the help of my wife and my therapist, I came to recognize a rhetorical question that hung over me like the mist that follows in the wake of an ocean liner. “How can I ever be truly happy, how can I ever deserve happiness,” I would say to myself, “when my grandfather was murdered in Auschwitz?”

I realized also that, although my grandmothers and aunt had been murdered as well, it was the story of Alex and Helmut that fully galvanized my interest. I became consumed with a desire to know the facts of their voyage on the St. Louis and of their three years’ imprisonment in France. Eventually it occurred to me why, beyond a certain spectator’s curiosity, that was so. I wanted to learn the facts of their final years on earth because I wanted to save them. My father had failed, and the responsibility had passed to me. I was the backstop, the catcher racing up the first base line to snag an errant throw from an infielder. I couldn’t save them, of course. Again, they died ten years before I was born. But my father’s burden had become mine and his guilt was mine as well. If I couldn’t save them, the least I could do was to place flowers on their graves, to tell the world their story, and to bear witness.

In March 2006, my wife and I visited my father in Tucson, where he and my mother had moved following their retirement, and where George had remained following my mother’s death in 1984. George was now ninety-two years old and living alone, and Amy and I thought it was probably time to bring up the subject of assisted living. There is a nice facility nearly across the street from our home in Maryland, and we spent what we thought was a productive Saturday afternoon discussing a possible move east. My father asked several pointed questions but seemed quite interested in the prospect of living so close to Washington, D.C., and all its political and cultural attractions. When we parted that evening, Amy and I breathed sighs of relief, assuming that most of the heavy lifting had been accomplished.

The following morning, when we raised the issue again at breakfast, George became indignant, accusing us of conspiring to take him away from the home he loved. “But yesterday you said that it was such a good idea!” I exclaimed, frustrated by what I took to be the simple querulousness of a cranky old man. We flew back to Maryland that afternoon, unsure what to do.

Within a few weeks our way forward became painfully clear. A neighbor had come to visit George and found him in a heap on the floor, unable to rise. He was taken to a hospital, and several days later a neurologist called me with the news that my father had Alzheimer’s disease. What I had taken for a disagreeable refusal to acknowledge a logical plan of action had in reality been my father’s simple inability to remember a conversation from one day to the next.

There followed a nightmare of weeks of legal maneuvering attempting to persuade the state of Arizona to declare me George’s legal guardian so that I could move him to Arbor Place, an Alzheimer’s facility near us in Maryland. The single worst day of my life came in late June, when we somehow got him on an airplane, doing our best to ignore his repeated vehement declarations that I was behaving like a Nazi and that Amy was a willing Nazi hausfrau. His use of those epithets was doubtless evidence of his illness, but no less ironic or painful for all of that.

A slow, sad diminuendo marked the last years of George Goldsmith, during which I had frequent opportunities to visit with Günther Goldschmidt, the young man I’d come to know while working on The Inextinguishable Symphony. As I sat with him in the fenced-in garden of Arbor Place at twilight, or, increasingly as time went on, by his bedside in his tiny room, on a slippery brown leather chair we’d brought along from his home in Arizona, he would speak lovingly and longingly of his long-lost homeland. At times, his memories would skip across decades, as when he declared that he first heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination from a passerby on Gartenstrasse, where he’d lived as a child in Oldenburg. Mostly, though, he would share with me his happy memories of playing in the Schlossgarten, the elegant park, formerly the ducal gardens, that began just steps from his father’s spacious house. Many were the times that we would plan a return visit to his hometown that I knew would never happen; we’d fly to Amsterdam, I told him, and after a day or two take the train (oh, how he loved trains!) to Osnabrück and then to Oldenburg. He would show me all the sights, we’d hear music in the thirteenth-century Lambertikirche, and we’d stroll together through the Schlossgarten, admiring the rhododendrons and throwing bread crumbs to the ducks who swam contentedly in the park’s peaceful ponds. Invariably after these fanciful conversations, my visit would end, he would fall into a happy sleep, and I would drive home in tears.

Then, as a gentle spring took hold in 2009, his decline quickened. In the middle of a rainy April night, a phone call summoned me to a suburban hospital where my father had been rushed when a caretaker at Arbor Place discovered him struggling for breath. A few days later, he was returned to his own little bed under hospice care; his doctor, without explicitly saying the words, prepared me for the end. On Wednesday night, April 29, I had the chance to say goodbye. My father, shrunken and shaken by his last struggles, could no longer reply as I told him that I loved him and thanked him for my life and for my love of music. He grasped my hand with what must have remained of his strength and opened his eyes wide before closing them and sinking back into his pillow. The next day, shortly after noon, his long journey ended at last.

Exactly eleven months later, on March 30, 2010, I received the shocking, inexplicable news that my brother had died. A once brilliant student at Stanford University who, like me, had gone into the business of introducing classical music on the radio, Peter had in recent years been struck low by physical ailments and a profound depression that, I am sure, was exacerbated by the long-standing family guilt and shame. Now he was gone, quickly felled by a heart attack. He was sixty. The one person of my generation who understood the issues I’d grown up with, intimately and with no need of explanation, had disappeared. My parents, the other two people who’d known me all my life, were also gone. I was suddenly alone, the last Goldsmith standing.

As I struggled to make sense of my unfamiliar place in the universe and to come to terms with my sorrow, one certainty seemed to wrap itself comfortingly around me, as if I’d slipped on a well-worn flannel shirt on a cold morning. I would once again write a book about my family. The family had been reduced to all but nothing, but I would do my best to see that it lived on. I would tell the story of my Grandfather Alex and Uncle Helmut, of their journey on the St. Louis and their unhappy odyssey through France. Having lost my father and my brother, I would write about my father’s father and his brother. Perhaps I was trying to cling to what had slipped away forever. But whatever the source of my decision, I told myself that I would write the book so that it could be completed by the day I, too, reached sixty. I didn’t have much time.

I began by paying several visits to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the immense building on the National Mall in Washington, solemnly designed to suggest a concentration camp. I knew that Alex and Helmut had landed in France in June 1939 and that they’d arrived in the Rivesaltes concentration camp in January 1941, but where and how they had passed those interim eighteen months remained a mystery.

In 1941, a helpful French functionary filled out these cards that, seventy years later, provided me with invaluable clues regarding my grandfather and uncle’s journey through France. Note the handwritten cities listed just below the line marked Nationalite.

(Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

But then, while poring over microfilm in the museum’s library, I made an intriguing discovery. Examining the information in the section given over to Camp de Rivesaltes, I found the cards that an efficient French functionary had filled out to mark the transference of my grandfather and uncle from that camp to their next destination, Camp des Milles, in July 1941. In addition to noting their names, hometowns, professions, dates of birth, and the names of their nearest relatives, my unknown helper of seven decades earlier had also written in the words “Boulogne,” “Montauban,” “Agde,” and “Rivesaltes.” Boulogne and Rivesaltes I knew, respectively, to be the names of the town where Alex and Helmut had landed in France and the hellish camp near the Pyrenees, but what of the other two?

A little breathlessly, I called over a museum staffer. She furrowed her brow and then brightened. “Why, Agde was another camp, also in the south of France, near the Mediterranean. And Montauban . . . that’s a town in the south of France, near Toulouse. Those must have been your relatives’ last known addresses before their arrival in Rivesaltes!” Montauban was not a concentration or refugee camp, but it was possible that my grandfather and uncle had been held there, maybe hidden there, after the start of the war in September 1939. More mystery.

I went home and confirmed that Montauban is indeed a city in southern France, the capital of the departement of Tarn-et-Garonne, located about thirty miles north of Toulouse. I also learned that it proudly proclaims itself the sister city of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. On a whim, I placed a call the next day to Pawhuska’s city hall and asked for the person in charge of the sister-city program. “Oh, that’s Jack Shoemate. . . . Here’s his number. . . . He’ll be happy to talk to you.” I hung up, profoundly grateful, and not for the first time, for the easygoing friendliness of small-town American ways.

Mr. Shoemate was eager to talk about Pawhuska’s sister city in far-off France, and more than happy to give me the e-mail address of his primary contact in Montauban, Jean-Claude Drouilhet. I immediately wrote to M. Drouilhet to ask him what, if anything, he knew about foreign Jews who might have been held in Montauban in the early days of World War II. I was delighted when M. Drouilhet responded almost immediately, excited when he declared that my subject was of extreme importance to him, and thrilled when he wrote again a few days later to tell me that he’d gone to police headquarters in Montauban and had unearthed some information sure to be of interest to me. He had digitally photographed his discoveries and attached them to his e-mail. I clicked them open . . . and there were two more cards, similar to those filled out at Rivesaltes, these dominated by a large red letter J carved in blood, it seemed, in the upper left. Again I read the usual details of Alex and Helmut’s birthdays, professions, and the names of their relatives, but here was a line that listed where they’d been prior to their arrival in Montauban. On the line was written clearly “Martigny-les-Bains.” Another clue!

Within days, I had confirmed with an archivist at the Holocaust Museum that, yes, a number of St. Louis refugees who’d disembarked in France had been taken to Martigny-les-Bains, a village in the northeast that had enjoyed a degree of prosperity at the turn of the twentieth century as a spa town with renowned healing waters. Just why Alex and Helmut had been brought there remained a bit of a mystery, but now the course of their journey through France had become clearer.

Then, as the long winter began to wane and the days began to lengthen, with their promise of another spring and its infinite possibilities, my grandfather and uncle’s itinerary began to burn itself into my brain with an improbable urgency. Boulogne-to-Martigny-to-Montauban-to-Agde-to-Rivesaltes-to-Les Milles-to-Drancy-to-Auschwitz. That list of names became as familiar to me as my own address and telephone number. Late one night, it came to me what I must do: I knew that I needed to retrace their steps, to set foot on the earth they trod during those final three years of initial hope and eventual hopelessness, to see what they saw and to breathe the air they breathed before they breathed their last. I would tell their story as a grandson, a nephew, and an eyewitness.

Their stories were more than their last years, however, so I decided to begin my journey where my grandfather started his, the little village of Sachsenhagen in Germany’s Lower Saxony. I would then travel to Oldenburg, where Alex established his business and where Günther and Helmut were born, and then to Hamburg, where the St. Louis began its unhappy voyage. I would then cross the Low Countries to meet up metaphorically with Alex and Helmut when they landed in Boulogne-sur-Mer, and from there follow them along their winding road to Auschwitz.

Though I share my father’s love of trains, it seemed to me that the nature of this journey would require a car. I consulted a map. Adding up the distances I was able to estimate between destinations, I concluded that I would be traveling a minimum of thirty-five hundred miles, more than a drive across the United States from east to west. Given the time I would reasonably need in each city, I decided that the trip would last about six weeks.

The journey began to take on a life of its own, becoming a force that seemed to be willing me onward, dominating my thoughts by day and my dreams by night. I found myself exhilarated by the prospect one minute and then consumed by fears and doubts the next. My greatest fear was that I would fly home from Europe at the end of the six weeks thinking to myself, “Well, that was a colossal waste of time!” I also feared coming face to face with the daily record of my family’s descent into death, and I wondered just how I would find my way through the heart of Europe with my limited German and my nearly nonexistent French. And I was fully conscious of the immense contrast between Alex and Helmut’s journey and mine, how they had been prisoners caught in a Kafkaesque quagmire of bureaucracy, indifference, and cruelty; what they had to endure as their rations were reduced and they lost weight and hope; and how I would be traveling in an air-conditioned car, staying in lovely hotels, with all of France’s celebrated cuisine at my fingertips. Was this quest of mine in some fashion a monstrous game of dress-up and make-believe, not so much a tribute to my grandfather and uncle as a mockery of their suffering?

Just weeks before my departure, I asked my wife if she would accompany me on this grand adventure, to temper my fears and also to share in the pleasures of the experience, the new sights, sounds, and tastes we would surely encounter on the road. “Grief can take care of itself,” wrote Mr. Twain, “But to get full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.” She said yes, bless her.

So, on Tuesday, May 10, 2011, we set forth. I took along small photographs of Alex and Helmut, a single suitcase, and a small box containing my father’s ashes, a box that had spent the previous two years in the shadows of an upstairs closet. It was time, I’d decided, for Günther to make his return to his cherished homeland. I also packed the fervent hope that in the coming six weeks, I might learn much about the ordeal of my grandfather and uncle, yet also find a way to set down my family’s long-borne burden, to steer my way out of the churning turbulence of Alex’s wake into the calm and peaceful waters of my living family, my friends, and my life.

It was a beautiful clear evening as our 757 climbed to thirty-nine thousand feet along the eastern seaboard on its navigational path from Washington to Europe. Gazing down over the sprawling boroughs of New York City, I had an unhindered view of the Statue of Liberty and neighboring Ellis Island. My parents had roused themselves at 4:00 a.m. to catch their first glimpse of Miss Liberty’s welcoming torch when they arrived safely in America in 1941. Alex and Helmut had found the golden door shut firmly against them two years earlier. I pondered those two journeys that I could almost see far below me and the fate that had intervened in both, and as we bent our way east into the gathering night and my latest voyage into that land of mystery we call the past, I recalled the words of Martin Buber: “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”





  • "Martin Goldsmith's odyssey brings clarity to a mystery and closure to a tragedy within his own family. By vividly—and searingly—personalizing the Holocaust, he has done a service to history and the collective conscience of humanity."—Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and former Deputy Secretary of State

    Johns Hopkins Magazine, Spring 2014
    “This is family history travelogue as act of repentance—candidly written, deeply considered, and profoundly moving.”

    New York Journal of Books, 4/17/14
    “Martin's journey and book offer a new perspective on the Holocaust; one that is typically missing from most books and films about the Shoah…Alex's Wake is a powerful and evocative memoir.”

    Boston Globe, Child in Mind parenting blog, 4/22/2014
    "Alex's Wake is at one level a history lesson as memoir...The book also reads as demonstration of the healing power of storytelling, and of the transformation of terrible loss in to great beauty...[The] Jewish concept, Tikkun Olam...refers to humanity's shared responsibility to 'heal the world.' With the writing of Alex's Wake, Goldsmith has done his part."
  • Bookviews Blog, May 2014
    “[Goldsmith] details his six-week quest to retrace their journey to assuage the guilt he carried for living happily in America despite his family's tormented history. The book is more than just his and his family's, but one that many experienced, including Germans who regretted the horror the Nazis inflicted on Jews and others.”

    Baltimore Sun, 4/29/14
    “Underscores the immense moral challenges and failings of a nation that believes itself the leader of the free world…A heartbreaking story of fear, frustration, anti-Semitism and betrayal.”

    The Hub, 6/14/14
    “[A] gripping book…A profoundly moving read.”

    InfoDad, 6/5/14
    Alex's Wake is unfailingly well-meaning, carefully researched and skillfully written. It is clearly a work with considerable meaning for its author and, by extension, for those who share a similar family history and similar connections with the Second World War.”

    WTBF Radio, “Book Bit”, 5/13/14
    “The author could not save their lives, but he was able to save their stories, and the journey restored his faith.”
  • The Ivy Bookshop blog, 7/8/14
    “[Goldsmith's] skillful recreation of the ‘everydayness' of their lives in Germany and France, his powerful and eloquent prose, his deft portraits of the living and dead allow the reader who may have no connection to the Holocaust to become invested in the lives of Alex and Helmut…One can't comprehend 6,000,000 deaths. Martin Goldsmith has saved two of them from oblivion.”

    Military History, July 2014
    “The poignant story of Goldsmith's efforts to fill in vital gaps in his family history, as well as of his struggles to understand his own attitudes toward the Holocaust and the people who denied help…Provides a fuller look at two remarkable relatives and is a touching literary tribute to two men among the many people forever lost to the catastrophe that was World War II.”

    Providence Journal, 7/12/14
    “[An] unusual book…Much of the story is compelling.”

  • Advance praise for Alex's Wake

    "Martin Goldsmith re-traveled the route of his grandfather and uncle, both lost to the Holocaust, through their internment in France to their horrid deaths at Auschwitz. He found therein a kind of personal deliverance from the guilt that clings so nastily to the survivor. The opposite of love, Elie Wiesel has observed, is not hate but indifference. With Alex's Wake, the author proves himself the least indifferent and, because of that, the most loving of men."—Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball and author of Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

    "Alex's Wake is beautiful and brave. Martin Goldsmith's search for the truth is at once a chilling yet affirming account of human loss and recovery."—David Maraniss, author of They Marched into Sunlight

    "There are six million Holocaust stories. All of them are the same in sadness and devastation. Each is different in circumstance and fear. Martin Goldsmith eloquently tells the story of his search for family in the rubble of memory and distance. It's a moving journey of finding the past and his own determined and compassionate present."—Susan Stamberg, National Public Radio

On Sale
Apr 8, 2014
Page Count
352 pages
Da Capo Press

Martin Goldsmith

About the Author

Martin Goldsmith is a host and classical music programmer for Symphony Hall on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and previously hosted NPR’s daily classical music program, Performance Today, from 1989 to 1999. He is the author of The Inextinguishable Symphony and lives in Maryland.

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