Exit Berlin Tells Story of AJC Employee Family's Escape from Nazi Germany
NEW YORK, March 17, 2014
NEW YORK, March 17, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC announces the
publication of Exit Berlin: How One Woman Saved Her Family from Nazi Germany.
Authored by Charlotte Bonelli, director of AJC Archives, and published by Yale
University Press, Exit Berlin offers unique insights into Nazi Germany and the
Holocaust from the perspective of one young German Jewish woman.
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"Always illuminating, full of moral tension and high drama, the letters of
Luzie Hatch exchanged with her relations amount to an eyewitness account that
allows us to penetrate the myths and statistics that sometimes obscure the
hard facts of the Holocaust," says acclaimed writer Jonathan Kirsch.
The entire collection of 300 letters was discovered in Luzie's Forest Hills,
NY, apartment, where she had lived alone for more than 61 years. She was
meticulously organized in saving copies of letters she sent to relatives and
friends, and then filing them together with responses she received. "It is
almost unheard of for personal correspondence from this period to be
matching," says Bonelli. "The collection is extremely valuable."
With the vital help of an American cousin, Arnold Hatch, Luzie had managed to
flee Berlin shortly after Kristallnacht in November 1938, resettle in New
York, and then do what she could to assist her parents and other relatives
left behind. She changed her name from Hecht to Hatch.
The correspondence to and from Germany, Shanghai, Vichy France, Bolivia,
England and Canada reveals much history, some new to even those
well-acquainted with the Holocaust. "Just when you think there is nothing new
to write on the Holocaust here it is. How an average Jewish American family
responded to the Holocaust," says Carol Mann, the literary agent who
represented the book.
In addition to 85 letters Bonelli chose to include in Exit Berlin, her own
interviews with Hecht family members, correspondents' descendants, survivors
of the Vichy transports, and historians in the U.S.,Germany, Israel, England,
and Canada, weave a saga of one extended Jewish family during the Holocaust.
"Your intention of coming to America is sheer insanity and you would find the
situation horrible," writes Ida Hatch in May 1933, when Luzie's father first
appeals in writing for help after Hitler's rise to power. The bulk of the
letters are with Ida's son, Arnold, who assumed responsibility for the family
business after his father passed. He also assumed the contact with Luzie's
family. Luzie herself is persistent and persuades Arnold to help get her to
New York, so she can be free and, hopefully, arrange for her family to follow.
The letters Arnold wrote to Luzie and to relatives in Germany offer insights
into his own thinking regarding the plight of his relatives, most of whom he
did not know. Conflicting with his sense of moral obligation to assist were
the economic and political realities that influenced his cautious approach.
There was the Depression's lingering impact, demands of running his own
business, and the everyday realties and challenges of rescue, including
immigration laws, transportation challenges, and options other than the United
"Luzie Hatch found herself sandwiched between two profoundly conflicting
forces: her American cousin's reasonable caution and the desperation of her
relatives in Germany," says Bonelli. "It was a delicate situation for a single
27-year-old who was attempting to make her way in a new country."
Arnold, living and working near Albany, NY, was crucial to the cause. Luzie
not only maintained direct contact with her American cousin about her own
situation, but she also became the intermediary between him and relatives who,
after learning of Luzie's successful immigration and transition to American
life, sought the same. Since Arnold did not know German and his relatives
could not write in English, Luzie was both translator and advocate.
And she did all this while working at the American Jewish Committee (AJC). By
chance, she landed a job there four months after her arrival in New York, and
would work at AJC until her retirement in 1977.
In her early years at the organization, Hatch was indispensable to an AJC
initiative, working as project assistant on a White Book on Nazi Germany, a
multi-volume chronicle of Nazi Germany's anti-Semitic policies from 1933 to
1939. The volumes treated the full scope of Jewish life in Germany at the time
-- the civil service, education, army, agriculture, special tax regulation,
registration of Jewish property, and many other subjects.
Years after the war, Luzie was able to reconcile with her homeland. Working at
AJC during the 1960s and 1970s, she became a principal interlocutor for German
groups visiting the AJC headquarters in New York. AJC pioneered the
development of postwar Jewish ties with Germany, and established a permanent
office in Berlin in 1998.
"Luzie could easily have disappeared into the abyss of history," says Bonelli.
But after her death, the estate executor cleaning out the apartment found the
letters and contacted Bonelli.
Exit Berlin will be released on April 29. Copies can be ordered from Amazon
and Barnes and Noble. For more information, including audio readings of select
letters, visit www.exitberlin.org.
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SOURCE American Jewish Committee
Contact: Kenneth Bandler, AJC Director of Media Relations, 212.891.6771,
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