Recounting how she fled from the German invasion of Czechoslovakia with her immediate family to Hungary, where she met her first love, Richie Kovacs, in 1939, Schimmel offers a somewhat uneasy combination of teenage love story and Holocaust testament. As teenagers, the pair vowed to remain eternally true. But as Jews, they were forced to endure the pain of separation when Schimmel, her mother, brother and sister were marched to the Mauthausen death camp in 1944 (her father had disappeared earlier on a refugee-smuggling mission, never to be heard from again). Against all odds, the family survived the winter and were liberated by American troops in 1945. While living in a displaced person's camp, Schimmel found Kovac's name on a list of the dead. She subsequently met and married Otto Schimmel, an Auschwitz survivor, although she warned him she could not fully return his love. The Schimmels and Betty's mother moved to America, but in her prosperous new life Betty never forgot her first love. She returned to Budapest with her daughter in 1975 and, in a hotel dining room, miraculously recognized Richie. Their emotional reunion was like a dream come true, but in the end, Betty chose to return home to Otto. Schimmel's testament as a Holocaust survivor is simply told and affecting, but the breathless passages describing her teenage love affair may alienate readers who suspect that her 50-year obsession more likely stems from nostalgia for the charmed, lost world of pre-Hitler Europe than from any connection with a man she knew half a century ago. Photos not seen by PW. Agent, David Hendin; BOMC selection. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
As recounted in this gripping memoir, Schimmel left an idyllic childhood in rural Czechoslovakia to move with her family to Hungary, where World War II overshadowed her first great romance. (Thirty years later, she returned to Budapest to find her old love.) After Betty's father disappeared while helping refugees in North Africa, her mother struggled to raise three children as they were forced from their home into the crowded ghetto in occupied Budapest. The family then endured a grim march across Hungary (in winter) to the Mauthausen, Austria, concentration campÄfrom which they were finally liberated in 1945. The extraordinary coincidences that forced Betty to confront her past make this true story of her family's miraculous survival and subsequent adaptation to a new life in North America all the more riveting. Highly recommended for all collections.ÄKim Baxter, New Jersey Inst. of Technology, Newark Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.