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Their promised land : my grandparents in love and war / Ian Buruma.

By: Buruma, Ian [author.].
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: London : Atlantic Books, 2016Description: 305 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 22 cm.Content type: text | still image Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 1848879385; 9781848879386; 9781848879409.Subject(s): Schlesinger, Bernard, 1896-1984 | Schlesinger, Winifred, 1897-1986 | Schlesinger, Bernard, 1896-1984 -- Correspondence | Schlesinger, Winifred, 1897-1986 -- Correspondence | Jews -- England -- London -- Biography | World War, 1914-1918 -- Biography | World War, 1939-1945 -- BiographyGenre/Form: Biographies.DDC classification: 305.892/404210922 | B Summary: During the almost six years England was at war with Nazi Germany, Winifred and Bernard Schlesinger, Ian Buruma's grandparents, and the film director John Schlesinger's parents, were, like so many others, thoroughly sundered from each other. Their only recourse was to write letters back and forth. And write they did, often every day. In a way they were just picking up where they left off in 1918, at the end of their first long separation because of the Great War that swept Bernard away to some of Europe's bloodiest battlefields. The thousands of letters between them were part of an inheritance that ultimately came into the hands of their grandson, Ian Buruma, who has woven his own voice in with theirs to provide the context and counterpoint necessary to bring to life, not just a remarkable marriage, but a class, and an age. Winifred and Bernard inherited the high European cultural ideals and attitudes that came of being born into prosperous German-Jewish emigre families. To young Ian, who would visit from Holland every Christmas, they seemed the very essence of England, their spacious Berkshire estate the model of genteel English country life at its most pleasant and refined. It wasn't until years later that he discovered how much more there was to the story. At its heart, Their Promised Land is the story of cultural assimilation. The Schlesingers were very British in the way their relatives in Germany were very German, until Hitler destroyed that option. The problems of being Jewish and facing anti-Semitism even in the country they loved were met with a kind of stoic discretion. But they showed solidarity when it mattered most. As the shadows of war lengthened again, the Schlesingers mounted a remarkable effort to rescue twelve Jewish children from the Nazis and see to their upkeep in England.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

Ian Buruma's moving and personal account of his grandparents' lives in England during both world wars, as told through their letters.

Includes index.

During the almost six years England was at war with Nazi Germany, Winifred and Bernard Schlesinger, Ian Buruma's grandparents, and the film director John Schlesinger's parents, were, like so many others, thoroughly sundered from each other. Their only recourse was to write letters back and forth. And write they did, often every day. In a way they were just picking up where they left off in 1918, at the end of their first long separation because of the Great War that swept Bernard away to some of Europe's bloodiest battlefields. The thousands of letters between them were part of an inheritance that ultimately came into the hands of their grandson, Ian Buruma, who has woven his own voice in with theirs to provide the context and counterpoint necessary to bring to life, not just a remarkable marriage, but a class, and an age. Winifred and Bernard inherited the high European cultural ideals and attitudes that came of being born into prosperous German-Jewish emigre families. To young Ian, who would visit from Holland every Christmas, they seemed the very essence of England, their spacious Berkshire estate the model of genteel English country life at its most pleasant and refined. It wasn't until years later that he discovered how much more there was to the story. At its heart, Their Promised Land is the story of cultural assimilation. The Schlesingers were very British in the way their relatives in Germany were very German, until Hitler destroyed that option. The problems of being Jewish and facing anti-Semitism even in the country they loved were met with a kind of stoic discretion. But they showed solidarity when it mattered most. As the shadows of war lengthened again, the Schlesingers mounted a remarkable effort to rescue twelve Jewish children from the Nazis and see to their upkeep in England.

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WWI

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

While novelist and scholar Buruma (human rights, Bard Coll.; Year Zero) is no stranger to studies of early and mid-20th-century history, this work hits a bit closer to home for him. In it, he details the relationship of his grandparents-both English Jews with German heritage-through letters and photographs, from the time they met just before World War I until the end of World War II. Buruma gives the missives depth and context by conveying events of the time, as well as sociocultural concerns of those of Jewish faith who longed to be accepted in English society and had to decide how to assimilate. The correspondence reveals a beautiful and complex love story that lasted through triumphs and disasters, years of separation, anti-Semitic microaggressions, and social and family pressures. VERDICT Buruma's work is well-paced, absorbing, and gives a human face to some of the darkest eras of contemporary European history. Readers interested in biography, Judaism, social history, European history, the history of both World Wars, and/or a good old-fashioned love story will find much here to appreciate. [See Prepub Alert, 7/13/15.]-Crystal -Goldman, Univ. of California, San Diego Lib. © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Buruma (Year Zero: A History of 1945) delivers a moving, intimate portrait of his grandparents, Bernard and Winifred "Win" Schlesinger (the parents of film director John Schlesinger, of Midnight Cowboy fame), through a close reading of their correspondence from 1915 to 1945. In a fluid, novelistic narrative, Buruma not only captures a remarkable marriage, but also a particular segment of English society-assimilated, upper-middle-class Jews. He shows his grandparents as "outsiders who were insiders too," whose enthusiastic embrace of English culture, if seemingly excessive at times, reflected gratitude that England, unlike their parents' birthplace of Germany, didn't betray its Jewish citizens. The excerpted letters depict Bernard and Win during their first courtship, interrupted by his service in France in WWI; during her days at Cambridge and his at Oxford; and during their later separation during WWII, when Win saw how life carried on as usual in London even as England's fate "was being decided in the skies," and Bernard, an Army doctor, witnessed the Empire's waning days in India. Buruma depicts his grandparents "with all their doubts and contradictions" as well as their "generosity of spirit," which extended to their rescue of 12 Jewish children from Nazi Germany-and hosting two German POWs for Christmas in 1946. This illuminating story of cultural assimilation and identity will resonate with many readers. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

The war in the subtitle includes both WWI and WWII, during which the acclaimed author's grandparents, wealthy Jewish immigrants from Germany, were respectively in England (grandmother Winifred) or mostly fighting in the war or serving as a physician elsewhere in the world, primarily India (grandfather Bernard Bun Schlesinger). The love that Winnifred and Bun shared was a strong and singular one. Thus, the book is a fascinating and memorable personal family story. Buruma has touched on these themes before: Year Zero: A History of 1945 recounted his father's experience as a prisoner of the Nazis. Just when the narrative is in danger of slipping into very proper British sentimentality, we are told of Win and Bun saving (before Kristallnacht) a dozen children from the Nazis. The outsider role of Jews even in postwar Britain (Buruma's family uses the code word 45 to refer to them) is central to this stirring memoir.--Levine, Mark Copyright 2015 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

A prizewinning historian recounts his German-Jewish family's time in England during the most turbulent years of the 20th century. A treasure trove of love letters, produced over five decades and discovered locked in steel boxes in a barn, provided the raw materials from which Buruma (Democracy, Human Rights, and Journalism/Bard Coll.; Year Zero: A History of 1945, 2014, etc.) has shaped the fascinating story of his grandparents Bernard and Win Schlesinger. Both were children of German Jews who had immigrated to Britain in the 19th century and prospered. So, too, did their children, who, for the author, represent "the old immigrant story" of advancing through "higher education and prosperity." Buruma, however, probes the tensions below the surface of the family's apparent success. Never distant from their family connections in Germany, they were also targets of anti-Semitism in England. Both Bernard and Win served in World War I; Win was a nurse, and Bernard was a stretcher-bearer on the Western front. However, anti-Semitism ultimately stymied Bernard's career as a doctor. "The senior job is not for me at any price," he wrote in 1938 after rejection by St. Thomas's Hospital. Before the horrors of Kristallnacht, Win and Bernard had begun to set up a hostel where they sheltered rescued Jewish children. Raised by their parents as normal Germans, most had no idea why they were singled out for persecution. The family also found time to raise a family of five, which included future award-winning movie director John Schlesinger. During World War II, Bernard wrote daily from India, even knowing delivery was months away at best. On May 8th, 1945, he wrote, "my Belovedon this historic day I must send you a word of loveperhaps now after this war people will finally work out their salvation." Buruma impressively captures his grandparents' remarkable lives in this insightful narrative. The author shapes his family's labor of a lifetime into a scintillating work of art. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.