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A Jewish Teen’s World War II Odyssey: From the Golden Gate to the Black Forest

From the Golden Gate to the Black Forest cover
In 1940, 16-year-old Louis Maier boarded an eastbound train in Nazi Germany, immigrating to America via the only route still open: across Russia, through Japan and over the Pacific Ocean by ship to San Francisco. There the Jewish social services reunited him with his sister, Agathe, who had left Germany before him. But his parents and aunts remained in Europe as the doors of emigration were closing. Those fateful years between 1940 and 1946 are the subject of Maier’s second work of nonfiction.

Released in 2007 by Schreiber Publishing, From the Golden Gate to the Black Forest: The Odyssey of a New American in Search of His Parents’ Fate is an emotionally charged account that Maier says was a long time in the writing. “I was in my early 60s before I was emotionally ready to start to write my memoirs,” he reflects.

His first book, In Lieu of Flowers, published in 1995, detailed his childhood in Germany and his parents’ fate. “From the Golden Gate to the Black Forest,” he says, “is an effort to fill in gaps for historians and readers of my parents’ letters. I hoped to frame their wartime letters to us with my experiences adjusting to a life of freedom in San Francisco.”

His parents’ letters, homely with parental concern for the happiness of Louis and his sister, are especially poignant: They were written from a dismal internment camp in France.

In July 1942, his parents’ letters stopped; money that Maier had sent was returned. In the absence of any definitive news, Maier and his sister carried the hope that their parents had survived and Maier made a vow to find them.

He got his opportunity to search after being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943 at the age of 19. Posted to France, he stayed on with the Army in Europe after the war and his quest to learn about his parents’ fate began in earnest. This odyssey took him in and out of Germany and Austria several times. From each Holocaust survivor he met he sought news of his parents. In his search, he learned only that his parents had been on a transport to Auschwitz from which only one person returned.

Maier eventually came back to the United States, earned college degrees and for a time directed a program for Holocaust survivors. In 1970, he earned a Ph.D. in social work from CUA and has practiced psychotherapy in Silver Spring, Md., for many years.

A thoughtful, sensitive and observant writer, Maier has created a moving work that seamlessly conveys his youthful feelings alongside his more mature understandings. His straightforward style has the effect of heightening the emotional weight of his story without a hint of sentimentality.

Keeping North Korea in Check

Red Rogue Cover
North Korea bobs up in the news periodically, like a naval mine that one can sometimes glimpse beneath the surface of the water. Whether in the news or not, the communist nation remains a lurking threat that could destroy not only the already strained diplomatic bonds between the United States and South Korea but also the stability of northeast Asia.

North Korea “continues to engage in arms proliferation and illicit economic activities (including the counterfeiting of American money), and Washington’s policies have not yet proven to be effective in causing it to curtail any of its rogue nation-state activities,” author Bruce Bechtol Jr. observes.

Bechtol’s Red Rogue: The Persistent Challenge of North Korea (Potomac Books) examines the problems that North Korea presents. Other books “have focused on Pyongyang’s nuclear programs and have for the most part avoided in-depth discussion of North Korea’s other military capabilities and its counterfeiting and illegal drug trafficking,” says Bechtol, an expert on Korea who earned an M.A. in international affairs at CUA in 1996. “What led me to write this book was a desire to research and write about these issues, how they integrate into North Korean foreign policy, and how the U.S. and South Korea have reacted in very divergent ways.

“Only a strong South Korean-U.S. alliance can maintain security and stability on the Korean peninsula,” Bechtol concludes. “And only a pragmatic, international law-enforcement effort can prevent North Korea from large-scale distribution of illegal drugs and counterfeit currency, and the proliferation of missiles and other WMD-related weaponry.” — C.C

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Revised: August 2008

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