"...an engrossing account of the consequences of war and diplomacy for a single child."
"I found your book compelling and thoroughly readable. I am sure it must have cost you many tears, but the result is worth it. Thanks for letting me read your fine book."
—Larry McMurtry, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove,
The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, and many other novels
"Beautiful, evocative and absolutely gripping. You are a writer, Sabina."
—Tucker Malarkey, author of An Obvious Enchantment and Resurrection
After more than sixty years, the nightmarish sufferings of so many victims of Germany’s Nazi regime have been documented extensively. Rarely, however, does one hear about the experiences of German children during World War II. Coming of age amidst the chaos, brutality, and destruction of war in their homeland, they had no understanding of what was happening around them and often suffered severe trauma and physical abuse. They too became victims of the madness perpetrated by the totalitarian state.
This haunting memoir tells the riveting story of one such German child. Born in Berlin in 1941, Sabina de Werth Neu knew little during her earliest years except the hardships and fear of a war refugee. She and her two sisters and mother were often on the run and sometimes homeless in the bombed-out cities of wartime Germany. At times they lived in near-starvation conditions. And as the Allies stormed through the crumbling German defenses, the mother and children were raped and beaten by marauding Russian soldiers.
After the war, like so many Germans they wrapped themselves in a cloak of deafening silence about their recent national and personal history, determined to forget the past. The result was that Sabina spent much of her life wrestling with shame and bouts of crippling depression. Finally, after decades of silence she could no longer suppress the memories and began reconstructing her young life by writing down what had previously seemed unspeakable.
Illustrated by vintage black-and-white family photographs, the book is filled with poignant scenes: her abused but courageous mother desperately trying to protect her children through the worst, the sickening horror of viewing Holocaust footage on newsreels shortly after the war, the welcome sight of American troops bringing hot meals to local schools, and the glimmer of hope finally offered by the Marshall Plan, which the author feels was crucial to her own survival and that of Germany as a whole.
A Long Silence not only recalls the experiences of a now-distant war but brings to mind the disturbing realities of present-day refugee children. There is perhaps no more damning indictment of war than to read about its effects on children, its most helpless victims.
FURTHER PRAISE FOR A LONG SILENCE:
“This is an extraordinary account of trauma and recovery, spanning the second half of the twentieth century. There are by now literally thousands of memoirs by victims of Nazi Germany, mostly by Jewish survivors. Sabina de Werth Neu tells the story of a German child. Born in Berlin in 1941, she, her mother, and her two sisters were brutally raped by Soviet soldiers in 1945. For the rest of their lives they were haunted by that night of horrors. Using sparse and succinct prose, the author takes her reader on a relentless, painful, yet at the same time also elevating journey of slow emergence from the shadow of the war and the cold silences and repressed violence of the postwar years. This memoir should be read by anyone wishing to understand how war and genocide can scar and distort generations of human beings, and especially children, and how a modicum of love and compassion can save and redeem even those most deeply wounded.”
—Omer Bartov, Professor of History at Brown University and the author, most recently, of Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine
"A poignant and powerful memoir, filled with horror, joy, and sorrow. It ought to be read by every American, for it is, in the author's words, ‘my thank you to the American people for their kindness, generosity, and the sacrifices they made during those hard postwar years in Europe.’"
—Gordon S. Wood, the Alva O. Way University Professor Emeritus at Brown University.
Shipping Weight: 1lbs
Sabina de Werth Neu, now an American citizen, is a retired therapist who lives in Miami, Florida.