Where Memory Leads: My Life


Product Details

Other Press (NY)
Publish Date
5.7 X 1.4 X 8.6 inches | 0.85 pounds

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About the Author

Saul Friedländer is an award-winning Israeli-American historian and currently a professor of history (emeritus) at UCLA. He was born in Prague to a family of German-speaking Jews, grew up in France, and lived in hiding during the German occupation of 1940-1944. His historical works have received great praise and recognition, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for his book The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945.


"When Memory Comes retains the very texture of recollection in a literary style characterized by tact and elegance...[the book] is faithful to the workings of memory: It doesn't arrive all at once; it reappears, often without warning, to interrupt the present with the aroma, and the pain, of the past... Where Memory Leads describes in more prosaic, chronological form the itinerary of a historian whose life work has been to piece together an account of massive, state-sponsored crimes while making a place for the voices of those mercilessly persecuted...When Memory Comes was written in the key of memory, a register replete with sensation and emotion but that can offer no lessons. Where Memory Leads is written in the key of history, a register that moves from meaning to message. Here, the author is crystal clear. 'The only lesson one could draw from the Shoah was precisely the imperative: stand against injustice.' Obligation fulfilled." -- Wall Street Journal

"[When Memory Comes] is a small classic of Holocaust literature. With a light brush, bringing events in and out of focus, the author depicts his early years in Prague, where he was born in 1932 to Jewish parents who considered themselves culturally German; the family's move to Paris and flight to Vichy; his seclusion and conversion in a Catholic seminary; his parents' attempted escape to Switzerland and their disappearance, ultimately to die in Auschwitz. It is a shattering story, written in 1977 in Israel, where Friedländer went first to fight and later to teach, salted with observations on the Jewish state and relations with the Palestinians, a never-ending debate in which he participates forcefully from the left. Where Memory Leads follows suit, telling a painful post-war story both personal and national, woven into discussions of teaching posts outside Israel, in Geneva and Los Angeles, where he is emeritus professor of history at UCLA."
- Guardian (US)

"Friedlander, who lost his parents in the Holocaust and survived as a child hidden in a catholic seminary in central France, went on to become an accomplished polyglot, at home in Israel, Europe and the United States. Friedlander's childhood...was the subject of a first, more typical "survivor" memoir, titled "When Memory Comes."...the book is a fractured and evocative account of Friedlander's early years and separation from his parents, written in Israel in the heavy aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. "Where Memory Leads" is a more literal project...More than anything else "Where Memory Leads" chronicles Friedlander's professional success, in particular his most significant achievement: a two-volume history of the Nazis and the Jews from 1933 to 1945, a period he divides into "the years of persecution" and "the years of extermination."... In it, Friedlander deftly wove an account of Nazi policies with records of the daily life of Germans and testimony from victims...Friedlander, more than most, has made lasting contributions to scholarship - in his writing on the Nazi era, but also in his role investigating the relationships between the Nazis and powerful institutions, corporations and nations. With a cleareyed moral imperative, he opposes the Palestinian occupation, repeatedly demands accountability from Israeli leaders for their support of West Bank settlements and rails against use of the Shoah as a pretext for mistreatment of Palestinians." -- The New York Times Book Review

"Friedländer (history, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945), a leading Holocaust scholar, has given us a follow-up of sorts to his 1977 memoir, When Memory Comes. While that title focused on his childhood and the tragic separation from his parents (who were killed during the Holocaust), this one ranges across his life. The primary focus is on his intellectual and political development and ambivalent relationship, both politically and as a citizen, with Israel. A charming aspect of the book is the author's frequent and ironic acknowledgement that memory doesn't always work the way we want it to...Friedländer is an engaging writer and personality. This is an important book for readers interested in intellectual history and the history of Israel." -- Library Journal

"Ultimately, Friedländer would become both an apologist for Israeli policies and a critic of its racism toward the Palestinians. However, he embarked on graduate work in international studies in Geneva in 1961, pursuing his studies in his "monomaniacal way," supporting a family yet suffering from debilitating anxiety that required intensive drugs as well as psychoanalysis. His initial book exposing the complicity between Pius XII and the Nazi regime led him to devote his subsequent work to European fascism, modern anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust. A "difficult stay in Berlin in the mid-eighties," when he was confronted by a new wave of "apologetic" scholarship about Nazi Germany, reinforced his decision about his work... the book is haunting in scope and depth." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust historian who came to call him¬self Saul Friedlander, When Memory Comes was published in 1978; translated from the French by Helen Lane, the book was recog¬nized as a lapidary masterpiece, evoking the author's traumatic childhood, his conver¬sion to Catholicism, and his gradual redis¬covery of his Jewish roots in adolescence with the lightest of touches. . . For those who missed out on the book when it origi¬nally appeared, it has now been reissued, with an elegant introduction by Claire Messud, in tandem with a new memoir, Where Memory Leads, which picks up threads of the earlier narrative. . .Where Memory Leads is an intellectual as well as personal meditation, and among the many pleasures of reading itis the lucid and insightful analysis it provides of the Israeli occupation, its sources in Israeli myths of the Sabra and of national memory, and 'the danger of a moral degradation that the occupation could foster within Israeli soci¬ety.' . . . This is a book about growing up in the shadow of a dark history¬...Friedlander's memoir, in its rigorous attention to the major and minor devastations that his life has wrought, will set you thinking about your own responses to the collective damage of history. And yet, for all the gravity of his reflections, Friedlander is never self-important, nor does his prose swell. Indeed, it's a tribute to his consuming honesty and taste for understatement that the reader comes away with a sense of the com¬plexity and hesitancy that marks a life that, in other hands, might have been presented as one long triumphal march." -- BookForum

"When Memory Comes is a small masterpiece in the literature of the Holocaust. Its new sequel, Where Memory Leads, is a more conventional kind of memoir because it deals with a more normal, adult life, but it displays the same probing intelligence at work. ... Taken together, these books form a primary document of modern Jewish history--a contribution to the study of the past that uses the tools not of the historian, but of the autobiographer. A scholar attempts to ascertain details and facts, and synthesize them into a complete narrative. A memoirist, however, knows that what matters most about the past, the way it felt, is always elusive, partial, reconstructed rather than recollected." -- Tablet Magazine

"When Memory Comes is a quiet and deeply affecting masterpiece. Spare in its language, it charts the same melancholy terrain as W, or the Memory of Childhood, the 1975 novel by the French experimental writer Georges Perec, which also told the wartime tale of a child's separation from his parents. But where Perec interwove autobiography with imagination, shifting between his own life and the dystopian fiction of an island country called "W," Friedländer obeyed the historian's code, sticking resolutely to the realm of fact. He nonetheless played with temporality: As if prolonged attention would be too much to bear, every few pages he snatched the reader back from the past to the present, from the Europe of the 1940s to his own current life in 1970s Israel. Four decades later, Friedländer has now published a companion piece. Where Memory Leads is a very different sort of book, more conventional in structure--¬it unfolds chronologically--¬and more prosaic in its themes. When Memory Comes has a truly Proustian ambition: to save from oblivion the moments from childhood that might otherwise have been lost. Though its memory remains charged with longing, Friedländer later tries to capture the happy experience, only to realize that the original taste can never be wholly recovered ... [it is] an absorbing tale of personal and professional transformation." -- The Nation

"This autobiography records both the public and the private sides of Friedlander's life story. It offers full disclosure of the politics of academia in the different schools in which he has taught, and explains the methodology and motivation of his scholarly endeavors. It describes his family life and the way he has adjusted to the different places in which he has lived, as well. His grandchildren will learn much from this account. So too will those of us who want to know what this tumultuous period of history that we have lived through has done to mold, and change, and then change again the lives of one who has lived through it, and who has documented and sought to explain the horrendous evil that was at the heart of it." -- The Jewish Advocate
"Forty years after the publication of his acclaimed first memoir, When Memory Comes, Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust historian Saul Friedländer revisits his formative years in France, Israel, and the United States, and the harrowing events that influenced his studies of Jewish life and history." -- Poets & Writers

"This is an often poignant rendering of a life brimming with both fulfillment and unsatisfied longings." -- Booklist

"Friedlander's memoir addresses his personal life outside of his historical work and experiences." -- Jewish Book Council

"In his first memoir and its sequel, Friedlander, the eminent Holocaust historian, offers us a dual look at his life-in real time and distilled through the layers of time."-- LitHub

"This autobiography records both the public and the private sides of Friedlander's life story. It offers full disclosure of the politics of academia in the different schools in which he has taught, and explains the methodology and motivation of his scholarly endeavors. It describes his family life and the way he has adjusted to the different places in which he has lived, as well. His grandchildren will learn much from this account. So too will those of us who want to know what this tumultuous period of history that we have lived through has done to mold, and change, and then change again the lives of one who has lived through it, and who has documented and sought to explain the horrendous evil that was at the heart of it."-- The Jewish Advocate

"Where Memory Leads is the second volume of Saul Friedländer's own memoirs and is published alongside a reissue of Where Memory Comes. Both are wonderful accounts of a man who went from Holocaust survivor to important roles in the Israeli government to a far more critical approach to his adopted country later in life as he became more widely known as the most prominent Israeli historian on the Holocaust."-- World Literature Today

"Saul Friedlander's memoir is a remarkable inquiry into the truths of a paradoxical identity." -- Times Literary Supplement

"Saddled with this memory and this knowledge, perhaps one can no longer live spontaneously, without thought, "in a total movement, An adult life, after this sort of childhood, would tend to lead to deep self-examination and a constant dissatisfaction - in other words, the life of the modern - secularized Jew." -- The Jewish Herald-Voice

"More than the memoirs of a Holocaust survivor and scholar, Friedländer's two volumes of memoirs are about identity: the loss of identity, the confusion of identity, the difficulty in reclaiming one. His casual manner of storytelling is engaging, and there's no way to be bothered about his uncertainty over whether an event occurred in January or February of a given month, since it adds to a certain verbal aspect to the writing. They are the work of man seeking not only his past and his identity, but also trying to get as close to the truth as is possible, and there can be no higher praise than this." -- Jewish Current Magazine

"Taken together, When Memory Comes and Where Memory Leads form a powerful
testament to the Holocaust's reality and its legacy, one that is at once scholarly and profoundly personal.They also offer a thought-provoking study of the psychological impact of trauma; the ways in which we alternately hide and seek the truth, and the incremental and often painful path to acceptance, and perhaps even peace." -- The Common

"This is a very moving memoir about the personal and psychological toll of the Holocaust." -- New York Post

"When Memory Comes has just been republished together with Friedlander's new, and far longer, memoir, Where Memory Leads, which picks up where the earlier volume left off. His new memoir is similarly concerned with the dynamics and problems of retrieval. But, then, there is memory--and there is memory. The profound and traumatic issues, the unique and highly personalized stakes of memory that lie at the heart of the first volume, give way to the irritating, quotidian issues of memory that afflict all of us at a certain stage in our lives. The painful grandeur, the tragic tale of an innocent child swept into a cataclysmic event, the other-worldly quality of the first volume has been replaced by an ageing man's quite normal struggle simply to remember names and words." -- Jewish Review of Books

"Where Memory Leads: My Life is an incredibly sad and moving book. Friedlander has led a full, exciting and dramatic life and the story he tells, in a most forthright manner, is bound to touch most, if not all, of his readers. He reveals, in passing, astonishing information about friends and colleagues . . . This work should be read by Jewish and non-Jewish students of history alike . . . it is an important contribution to Holocaust literature." -- Association of Jewish Libraries