It was March 1938 when Hitler first threatened to invade Austria. Two days before a planned vote on a merger with Germany, Hitler again threatened action, subsequently sending a large contingent of SS troops marching into Austria the following day—changing the course of history forever.
In a family narrative that relies extensively on the work of historians as well as unpublished papers and letters, Jean Axelrad Cahan seeks to reconstruct the events and processes her parents experienced during the time leading up to the Second World War, during the Holocaust, and after. Cahan leads the reader through her father’s Viennese family’s experiences as their fate became entwined with that of her mother’s family in Hungarian-speaking Transylvania. They endured the collapse of Austrian democracy, extreme anti-Semitism, and complex international politics. She relates her father’s journey through the Hungarian labor service system and forced marches as the Soviets advanced and the Germans retreated. Her mother and most of the other family members were deported to Auschwitz; only her mother survived that camp. Cahan also recounts her parents’ lives during the post-war Soviet occupation of Hungary. Cahan shares an inspiring glimpse into how two individuals, among many others, managed to survive unthinkable tragedies and challenges with resilience and dignity.
Szatmár Story is a fascinating account of the extraordinary experiences of two Central European families on the eve of, during, and after the Holocaust.