Lives Reclaimed: A Study of Rescue and Resistance in Nazi Germany, by Mark Roseman, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2019, $30
In the lead-up to World War II daily living conditions for people of Jewish ancestry in Germany were steadily declining and anti-Semitism was sharply rising. Even small acts of defiance—for example, criticizing the government among friends or buying products from a Jewish-owned store—could have potentially lethal consequences. It took people of extraordinary courage to withstand the constant peril and psychological stress, aid others and evade detection by authorities.
Mark Roseman’s Lives Reclaimed documents the fascinating story of the League: Community for Socialist Life, known to members as the Bund (German for “federation”). Led by the charismatic Artur Jacobs, the little-known group centered on the utopian ideals of romanticism, physical fitness, social democracy and universalism. In the wake of the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom Bund members resolved they could no longer ignore the downward spiral of German society and began providing practical aid as well as spiritual and emotional comfort to those in need. The book also relates the internal struggles of those Bund members drafted into military service and members’ ongoing struggle to keep the Bund network operating through skillful guidance, information gathering and sheer luck.
Lives Reclaimed is an object lesson in how even small acts of resistance, especially during wartime, provided necessary spiritual succor to people suffering from the deprivations and persecution imposed on them by the Nazi regime. It is a respectful testament to an admirable group of brave men and women who saved lives and whose heroic, generous deeds are well deserving of public recognition.