Just a week after the Kristallnacht terror in 1938, young Luzie Hatch, a German Jew, fled Berlin to resettle in New York. Her rescuer was an American-born cousin and industrialist, Arnold Hatch. Arnold spoke no German, so Luzie quickly became translator, intermediary, and advocate for family left behind. Soon an unending stream of desperate requests from German relatives made their way to Arnold’s desk.
Luzie Hatch had faithfully preserved her letters both to and from far-flung relatives during the World War II era as well as copies of letters written on their behalf. This extraordinary collection, now housed at the American Jewish Committee Archives, serves as the framework for Exit Berlin. Charlotte R. Bonelli offers a vantage point rich with historical context, from biographical information about the correspondents to background on U.S. immigration laws, conditions at the Vichy internment camps, refuge in Shanghai, and many other topics, thus transforming the letters into a riveting narrative.
Arnold’s letters reveal an unfamiliar side of Holocaust history. His are the responses of an “average” American Jew, struggling to keep his own business afloat while also assisting dozens of relatives trapped abroad—most of whom he had never met and whose deathly situation he could not fully comprehend. This book contributes importantly to historical understanding while also uncovering the dramatic story of one besieged family confronting unimaginable evil.
“Millions perished in the Holocaust, and for those few who managed to find refuge in a world of closed doors, it took relentless effort and persistence in the face of great peril and untold frustrations. Charlotte Bonelli’s collection of correspondence, Exit Berlin, tells a moving story and is an important historical record of one family’s struggles to escape. I recommend it highly as a unique account of dedication and steadfastness against big odds in a trying time.”—W. Michael Blumenthal, Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin
“Exit Berlin is a powerful and important work that sheds significant light on what one person with determination and imagination could—and could not do—to save those she loved during the critical period of 1933–42.”—Michael Berenbaum, Professor of Jewish Studies, American Jewish University
“For a generation steeped in email, this heartrending collection of letters takes us to a more intimately communicative era—in which Jews, trapped in the nightmare of Hitler’s persecution, pleaded for help to escape to their cousins in America; and in which the latter tried desperately, generously, to respond. These letters, personalizing one family’s ordeal, eloquently relay a tale of both horrendous abuse and life-threatening bureaucratic barriers.”—Michael R. Marrus, Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies, University of Toronto and the author of The Holocaust in History.
“Always illuminating, full of moral tension and high drama, the letters that 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. Charlotte Bonelli, who assembled, selected and annotated the correspondence, has made an important contribution to both history and literature.”—Jonathan Kirsch, author of The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan