Cover image for An uncommon friendship : from opposite sides of the Holocaust
An uncommon friendship : from opposite sides of the Holocaust
Rosner, Bernat, 1932-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley: University of California Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xiii, 271 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS135.H93 R677 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Two men, who meet and become good friends after enjoying successful adult lives in California, have experienced childhoods so tragically opposed that the two men must decide whether to talk about them or not. In 1944, 13-year-old Fritz was almost old enough to join the Hitler Youth in his German village of Kleinheubach. That same year in Tab, Hungary, 12-year-old Bernie was loaded onto a train with the rest of the village's Jewish inhabitants and taken to Auschwitz, where his whole family was murdered. How to bridge the deadly gulf that separated them in their youth, how not to allow the power of the past to separate them even now, as it separates many others, become the focus of their friendship, and together they begin the project of remembering.

The separate stories of their youth are told in one voice, at Bernat Rosner's request. He is able to retrace his journey into hell, slowly, over many sessions, describing for his friend the "other life" he has resolutely put away until now. Frederic Tubach, who must confront his own years in Nazi Germany as the story unfolds, becomes the narrator of their double memoir. Their decision to open their friendship to the past brings a poignancy to stories that are horrifyingly familiar. Adding a further and fascinating dimension is the counterpoint of their similar village childhoods before the Holocaust and their very different paths to personal rebirth and creative adulthood in America after the war.

Seldom has a memoir been so much about the present, as we see the authors proving what goodwill and intelligence can accomplish in the cause of reconciliation. This intimate story of two boys trapped in evil and destructive times, who become men with the freedom to construct their own future, has much to tell us about building bridges in our public as well as our personal lives.

Author Notes

Frederic C. Tubach is Professor Emeritus of German at the University of California, Berkeley.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Rosner and Tubach met in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1983. Tubach's wife, Sally, was a high-school friend of Rosner's wife; Tubach was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley; and Rosner was a lawyer. Rosner, a Jew, was born and raised in the Hungarian village of Tab. In July 1944, when he was 12, Rosner was sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. He was sent to Mauthausen in September 1944 and was freed in May 1945 when that camp was liberated. Tubach was the son of a German army officer and a member of the Jungvolk, the boy's division of the Nazi Youth Movement. While Rosner endured the degradation and inhumanity of the camps, Tubach suffered only a scarcity of food and air raids that disturbed the family's sleep. Rosner and Tubach recount their early lives in the U.S., including their struggle to get an education. What began as a pleasant, if superficial, friendship between the two men, became in time one of respect and understanding. --George Cohen

Publisher's Weekly Review

More a pair of parallel memoirs than the anatomy of a friendship, this unusual book recounts the stories of two friends: Rosner, a Hungarian Jew, was uprooted from his life and sent at age 12 to Auschwitz, where he lost his entire family; Tubach, the son of a German soldier, at nearly the same time was sent to a Nazi training camp (though, afterward, his stepmother, defying the local Nazi youth group, steered him away from joining the Adolf Hitler school). The book's structure is unusual: not only do both authors contribute to each chapter in alternating sections, but Tubach's sections are written in the first person, while Rosner's are written (at his request) in the third person. This approach underscores how Rosner reinvented himself after his privations, while Tubach's path was more direct. Intriguingly, Rosner who came to the United States thanks to a GI who generously invited him into his family became a corporate counsel for Safeway, while Tubach who also emigrated to the U.S. after the war found himself wary of power and sympathetic toward student radicals during his tenure as a professor of German at Berkeley. Their friendship, initiated in 1983 by their wives, is undergirded by a "common belief in Euro-American cultural traditions," such as classical music and faith in a common humanity. Still, the friendship grew only gradually, with Rosner slowly revealing heartrending bits of his story of endurance and survival when the two couples took several trips to his childhood village. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-"We are more than our histories" is the message of this shared memoir. Two grown American men meet in California in 1983 and slowly exchange stories of childhoods in their respective European villages. With time and trust they are able to divulge the particulars of a deeper and more troubling kinship. As teenagers during World War II, they struggled on opposite sides of the Holocaust, Rosner as his Jewish Hungarian family's only survivor at Auschwitz and Tubach as the son of a German Army intelligence officer and a member of the Jungvolk, a pre-Hitler youth organization. Tubach serves as the straightforward and almost dispassionate narrator of these alternating stories of the unimaginable horror of a concentration camp and the confusion and suspicion within a German village on the periphery of Nazi madness. As with other accounts of survival, readers are compelled to consider to what extent who we are is determined by experiences and forces beyond our control, whether a random act of individual kindness or a movement of mass hysteria. While there is inherent drama in these disparate stories, it is the trajectory that each one takes to converge many years later that makes these remembrances powerful and distinct. Ultimately, this is a book about the importance of our common humanity, about resilience and redemption, and about not letting symbols such as a yellow star or a swastika define or confine us.-Margaret Brown, Arlington County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
1 The Return of the Pastp. 1
2 Two European Villagesp. 24
3 The Loss of Innocencep. 63
4 The Maelstrom: To Auschwitz and Beyondp. 82
5 Roads Westp. 145
6 Careers: An American Storyp. 199
7 Germany: Fifty Years Laterp. 233
Codap. 266
Notesp. 269