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Asylum: A Survivor's Flight from Nazi-Occupied Vienna Through Wartime France

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A recently discovered account of an Austrian Jewish writer's flight, persecution, and clandestine life in wartime France. As arts editor for one of Vienna's principal newspapers, Moriz Scheyer knew many of the city's foremost artists, and was an important literary journalist. With the advent of the Nazis he was forced from both job and home. In 1943, in hiding in France, S A recently discovered account of an Austrian Jewish writer's flight, persecution, and clandestine life in wartime France. As arts editor for one of Vienna's principal newspapers, Moriz Scheyer knew many of the city's foremost artists, and was an important literary journalist. With the advent of the Nazis he was forced from both job and home. In 1943, in hiding in France, Scheyer began drafting what was to become this book. Tracing events from the Anschluss in Vienna, through life in Paris and unoccupied France, including a period in a French concentration camp, contact with the Resistance, and clandestine life in a convent caring for mentally disabled women, he gives an extraordinarily vivid account of the events and experience of persecution. After Scheyer's death in 1949, his stepson, disliking the book's anti-German rhetoric, destroyed the manuscript. Or thought he did. Recently, a carbon copy was found in the family's attic by P.N. Singer, Scheyer's step-grandson, who has translated and provided an epilogue.


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A recently discovered account of an Austrian Jewish writer's flight, persecution, and clandestine life in wartime France. As arts editor for one of Vienna's principal newspapers, Moriz Scheyer knew many of the city's foremost artists, and was an important literary journalist. With the advent of the Nazis he was forced from both job and home. In 1943, in hiding in France, S A recently discovered account of an Austrian Jewish writer's flight, persecution, and clandestine life in wartime France. As arts editor for one of Vienna's principal newspapers, Moriz Scheyer knew many of the city's foremost artists, and was an important literary journalist. With the advent of the Nazis he was forced from both job and home. In 1943, in hiding in France, Scheyer began drafting what was to become this book. Tracing events from the Anschluss in Vienna, through life in Paris and unoccupied France, including a period in a French concentration camp, contact with the Resistance, and clandestine life in a convent caring for mentally disabled women, he gives an extraordinarily vivid account of the events and experience of persecution. After Scheyer's death in 1949, his stepson, disliking the book's anti-German rhetoric, destroyed the manuscript. Or thought he did. Recently, a carbon copy was found in the family's attic by P.N. Singer, Scheyer's step-grandson, who has translated and provided an epilogue.

30 review for Asylum: A Survivor's Flight from Nazi-Occupied Vienna Through Wartime France

  1. 5 out of 5

    Coleen

    A reader, even one like me who has read many World War 11 books, might think that yet one more book about a Jew escaping the Nazi's in World War 11, from Austria to France, and then being sent to a concentration camp by the French Nazis would get tiring. But NO! This one is different. Really, as all of them are different. The author of the book, Moriz Scheyer, wrote the book, including many of his recollections and happenings, when they were occurring, much of which was when he and his wife and A reader, even one like me who has read many World War 11 books, might think that yet one more book about a Jew escaping the Nazi's in World War 11, from Austria to France, and then being sent to a concentration camp by the French Nazis would get tiring. But NO! This one is different. Really, as all of them are different. The author of the book, Moriz Scheyer, wrote the book, including many of his recollections and happenings, when they were occurring, much of which was when he and his wife and their housekeeper were in hiding. After Scheyer's death in 1949, his stepson found and read the manuscript [which composes most of this book] and destroyed it. His son, P.N. Singer, was seriously upset and could not understand how he could have done such a thing and his father told him why. It was only when P.N. Singer was cleaning out the family's attic in 2005 that a carbon copy was found in an old suitcase. P.N. Singer deserves more kudos heaped upon him than I can express. Singer had been interested from a young age in the background of his grandmother and the entire history of the World War 11 Jews and the Resistance. He had interviewed as many people, including his own father, as he could. He was surprised to find the 60 year old document that his father had destroyed, yet I believe that he must have been elated ! He translated the manuscript which became this book, Asylum, a fantastic story. Additionally, Singer included in the book what he titled Translator's Epilogue, he added photos, an eleven page biography of Scheyer, a detailed list of People Mentioned in the Text, a Chronology of Events from 1933-1945, and a Further Reading list. Again there are not enough kudos. Without wanting to spoil anything in the book, after reading what P.N. Singer's father told him as to why he destroyed the manuscript, and having read the story, I understood. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    This should be required reading for everyone and for all ages. During the beginning stages of the Holocaust (specifically during the Anschluss in the late 30s) there were many jokes told among Jews in an attempt at some sort of humor in the face of a bleak situation. In his recently-published memoir, "Asylum," Moriz Scheyer retells a few of these. A couple more poignant ones I'll reiterate here: 4 Jews discuss their emigration plans from Austria. One says, "I plan on heading to Great Britain." Ano This should be required reading for everyone and for all ages. During the beginning stages of the Holocaust (specifically during the Anschluss in the late 30s) there were many jokes told among Jews in an attempt at some sort of humor in the face of a bleak situation. In his recently-published memoir, "Asylum," Moriz Scheyer retells a few of these. A couple more poignant ones I'll reiterate here: 4 Jews discuss their emigration plans from Austria. One says, "I plan on heading to Great Britain." Another says, "I depart for the US tomorrow." The third says, "well I'm going all the way Australia." They turn to the fourth who says, "I'm going to stay here." The others look at him in amazement, "Well now, THAT'S adventurous!!" A Jew walks into the Consulate's office to emigrate. After being denied Visas to a number of countries, the Consul becomes frustrated and gives him a globe. "Surely there must be somewhere on here you can find to emigrate to!" The man peruses the globe, spinning it in his hands several times before handing the globe back, sadly responding, "There is no where on this one for me. You don't perhaps have a different one I could look at?" Of course in retrospection, these "jokes" are difficult to find funny, they are also a stark reminder of the fact that Jews were commonly being beaten and murdered in the streets where they grew up on, stories told of a Jewish husband and wife attacked while they walked down the street hand in hand, tied together and forced to crawl down the street on all fours whereupon at the end of the street, police smashed their hands to useless pulps beneath their boots. In spite of such everyday horrors they had to face, there was no country that readily accepted these victims, no governing body in any land that made escape from blatant torture to innocent people a viable option. Imagine yourself in that position. Your home, where you grew up, where you speak the language, where you work and live, now no longer your home. Vulnerable to imprisonment, assault or death at any moment if you choose to stay there. Imagine the difficulty in having to make such a decision for yourself - and what if you have a family, making the decision for them as well. Now think of the Syrian refugees, and not just them, but all other religious refugees who were forced to make this same decision. Yes, it's a different situation; the world is a different place now than it was in the late 1930s. But still, for many the choice is black or white, leave or stay, life or death. Regardless of whether you support the Muslim Ban, whether you support "extreme vetting" (whatever that is) or not, whatever your feelings may be on closing US borders to Syrian refugees entirely, I encourage everyone to read Scheyer's book "Asylum". It reverberates with the question of "How did this happen?" and now more than ever reminds the reader of the perils and potential reality of a history that repeats itself.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    This remarkable memoir was completed in 1945 but languished in an attic until discovered by the author's grandson in 2005. Although largely forgotten today, Moriz Scheyer was an influential figure in Viennese intellectual circles before the war, and was a friend and colleague of Stefan Zweig, Gustav Mahler, Arthur Schnitzler and many others. Forced to flee Nazi persecution, he eventually found asylum in a French convent, where he and his wife managed to survive until the end of the war. In eloqu This remarkable memoir was completed in 1945 but languished in an attic until discovered by the author's grandson in 2005. Although largely forgotten today, Moriz Scheyer was an influential figure in Viennese intellectual circles before the war, and was a friend and colleague of Stefan Zweig, Gustav Mahler, Arthur Schnitzler and many others. Forced to flee Nazi persecution, he eventually found asylum in a French convent, where he and his wife managed to survive until the end of the war. In eloquent and measured prose, he recounts the horrors he saw and experienced, and describes the hardships he endured. It’s a riveting story and what makes it especially memorable is that he was writing at the time and had no way of knowing what the future might bring. When I started reading I too had no idea how the story would end and that makes for some truly compelling reading. An unmissable tale of Nazi atrocities and human goodness.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rena

    I feel bad about only giving this book three stars. I DID like it, but...well, it was a non-professional person's journal, so the writing style didn't engross me. But it was invaluable in that it reveals the actual views of a Jew during WWII and Hitler's reign. I was touched by the author's vehemence toward certain countrymen--I never knew those things happened. So, it was a very important book to read, and I am glad I read it. I feel bad about only giving this book three stars. I DID like it, but...well, it was a non-professional person's journal, so the writing style didn't engross me. But it was invaluable in that it reveals the actual views of a Jew during WWII and Hitler's reign. I was touched by the author's vehemence toward certain countrymen--I never knew those things happened. So, it was a very important book to read, and I am glad I read it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rennie

    Viennese author Moriz Scheyer completed his memoir of being wrenched from his life as an editor and critic for a major newspaper in Vienna and hiding out in France even before World War II had ended. Considering that, it’s incredible that he had so much perspective about what was going on in the war and abroad. Some people try to deny awareness of the history happening around them, but here’s proof that there was a lot to be known if you were willing to open your eyes and ears. The Scheyers and t Viennese author Moriz Scheyer completed his memoir of being wrenched from his life as an editor and critic for a major newspaper in Vienna and hiding out in France even before World War II had ended. Considering that, it’s incredible that he had so much perspective about what was going on in the war and abroad. Some people try to deny awareness of the history happening around them, but here’s proof that there was a lot to be known if you were willing to open your eyes and ears. The Scheyers and their housekeeper, who wasn’t Jewish but in a touching gesture chose to follow her employers, were very lucky. Anyone who’s read similar memoirs about Holocaust survivors will recognize that immediately. They were helped by many in their flights and concealment, including the legendary French Resistance and a couple who remained their close friends for life. Scheyer and his wife fled Vienna after the Anschluss and went to France, where they never seemed to settle very long before being chased out by Nazis or their French assistants. Eventually they find safe refuge in a convent ministering to the disabled in the French countryside, and they survive the war. The book was a found manuscript, only located decades after its writing and presumed destroyed by the author’s stepson. It’s published now in translation by Scheyer’s step-grandson. The reason his stepson disliked and destroyed one copy of the manuscript is that it contains strong anti-German rhetoric, which is pretty understandable considering its author spent time separated from his family in a concentration camp, when not being ousted from every clandestine home they made and forced into hiding, and witnessed horrors so unspeakable that even reading his account today, more than 70 years after the fact, it’s hard to fathom and digest. It’s just hard to know, period. So I understand his anger. But what he’s missing and that other authors like Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel have, to give just two examples, is the introspection that maybe comes with distance. Those writers and many others who have contributed memoirs to the genre have time and distance between their experiences and the stories they’re telling about them, and they come across less bitter and bluntly angry, more able to impart wisdom and perspective about human nature and actions. Scheyer argues, like they do, that remembering is a crucially important thing to be done after such tragedy. In that sense, the personal accounts here are valuable contributions to the literary genre. Another sore point for me was Scheyer’s insensitive tone towards other groups, which was strange considering the persecution and judgment he was a victim of at the very moment he was writing. He wrote that many of the nuns at the convent where he finds asylum took the habit despite their attractiveness and chances for romantic relationships, and that just rubbed me the wrong way and I’m nowhere near religious or sensitive about religious issues. Worse are his descriptions of patients cared for at the convent. In multiple passages he uses an array of cringeworthy adjectives to describe how ugly, deformed, and generally wretched they are, making the point of how they’re lucky that because of their mental ailments they don’t have to witness the full horror of war. When the Scheyers return to the convent after time away, these pathetic creatures (his language) are happy to see them and actually, he doesn’t even find them ugly anymore! How generous of him. I was completely taken aback but maybe it was good to include these sections. He paints those around him with a broad brush but undermines his own argument by showing that he himself is capable of quite divergent thoughts. So as not to sound too critical, there were parts that I really appreciated – even in translation, there are some poetically gorgeous lines and poignant observations. The book makes a good counterpoint to works by the authors I mentioned above, to show how differently events can transpire, often just by sheer luck, and be processed by those experiencing them. And Scheyer and his wife did have a lot of luck, even if he didn’t see it that way – he describes himself as “defeatist” in his afterword, which was still written before the war officially ended. But all of these stories serve the purpose of not letting these events be forgotten, and most importantly, not letting them be repeated. He writes eerily presciently that no one would say that “…that’s what they are all like, the Catholics/Protestants/Muslims” except yes, people are still saying exactly that. We still have a long way to go, and knowing everything we can about the past is a big part of doing it better in the future. I received an advance copy courtesy of the publisher via Edelweiss for review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Donia

    The book is a memoir reconstructed by descendants of a Jew who fled Nazi Vienna. Although I have deep appreciation for the horrors visited upon the Jews in WWII and have read a great deal of literature concerned with the horrors of their persecution, I did not find this book appealing in any fashion. Perhaps that is why family never before had published this "discovered" raw manuscript. The book based upon the manuscript is a bitter, harsh and critical account of one Jewish mans suffering throug The book is a memoir reconstructed by descendants of a Jew who fled Nazi Vienna. Although I have deep appreciation for the horrors visited upon the Jews in WWII and have read a great deal of literature concerned with the horrors of their persecution, I did not find this book appealing in any fashion. Perhaps that is why family never before had published this "discovered" raw manuscript. The book based upon the manuscript is a bitter, harsh and critical account of one Jewish mans suffering throughout the War. It isn't just that he views his persecutors harshly which they deserve, it is that he himself takes a dim view of other "defective" individuals which I find off putting. Additionally the flow of writing is choppy and I found myself skimming and hurrying the end.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Granny Sebestyen

    Bonjour les lecteurs …. "Si je survis" est l'histoire de Moriz Scheyer, juif autrichien, qui a quitté sa patrie lors de l'anschluss de 1938. Fuyant l'ennemi et la haine, il se réfugie en France, pays qu'il considère comme sur et accueillant pour les gens en fuite comme lui. Il va aller de surprises en surprises ! Ce récit nous donne non seulement un aperçu de ce que les juifs pensaient des allemands, mais aussi l'attitude équivoque de nombreux français. " Si je survis " n'est pas un témoignage écrit Bonjour les lecteurs …. "Si je survis" est l'histoire de Moriz Scheyer, juif autrichien, qui a quitté sa patrie lors de l'anschluss de 1938. Fuyant l'ennemi et la haine, il se réfugie en France, pays qu'il considère comme sur et accueillant pour les gens en fuite comme lui. Il va aller de surprises en surprises ! Ce récit nous donne non seulement un aperçu de ce que les juifs pensaient des allemands, mais aussi l'attitude équivoque de nombreux français. " Si je survis " n'est pas un témoignage écrit après .. ce journal a été écrit en direct, au fur et à mesure de l'exode, de la traque de l'auteur. Ce livre n'est pas de la grande littérature mais éclaire de nombreux points de vue tant du côté persécutés que persécuteurs. Y sont évoquées également les difficultés rencontrées par ces exilés vis-à vis de la population du pays " d'accueil". Scheyer donne sa propre version de l'allemand, et de la France occupée. Certaines réflexions sont incroyablement visionnaires ( le devenir du nazisme, du peuple juif. Heureusement pour lui, tous les français n'étaient pas à mettre dans le même sac .. il a fait de belles rencontres qui lui ont permis d'échapper à l'horreur .. il les remercie chaleureusement. A lire pour un peu mieux comprendre

  8. 4 out of 5

    M

    Finally finished this book. Since it is a memoir by a Jewish survivor of the Nazi occupation of France, I could only read this book in small bites. The author takes us on harrowing journeys throughout France, until he, his wife and their housekeeper are finally given refuge and safety at a Catholic convent. We hold our breath with them, as they travel back and forth to Paris, trying to escape capture. We learn about the numerous people who helped them, in some way, along the way. It is both a bo Finally finished this book. Since it is a memoir by a Jewish survivor of the Nazi occupation of France, I could only read this book in small bites. The author takes us on harrowing journeys throughout France, until he, his wife and their housekeeper are finally given refuge and safety at a Catholic convent. We hold our breath with them, as they travel back and forth to Paris, trying to escape capture. We learn about the numerous people who helped them, in some way, along the way. It is both a book about man's inhumanity and man's humanity.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Loveeac

    There were numerous times when I wished I had the Kindle version of the book, rather than the audio one as there are so many quotes I would have liked to share. Even though this is an account of a Jew during WWII, Moriz's words still have relevance today. Maybe especially today. It's not an easy read to be sure, but definitely a worthwhile one. There were numerous times when I wished I had the Kindle version of the book, rather than the audio one as there are so many quotes I would have liked to share. Even though this is an account of a Jew during WWII, Moriz's words still have relevance today. Maybe especially today. It's not an easy read to be sure, but definitely a worthwhile one.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michele Peoples

    Extremely well-written and his multi-meaning word usage is impeccable! If you enjoy human interest stories of brave men and women forced to face incredible challenges with minimal survival odds thrive, this book is for you! Both beautiful and touching....well worth the read!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Uribe

    Por qué el hijo de moris scheyer no quería que se publicará este libro...? No lo sé , es una joya de la supervivencia del espíritu humano y como en épocas tan inmundas como la guerra no importan las religiones, la ayuda puede venir de cualquier parte

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ariana

    An absolutely essential book for our day. A must read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Marble

    The life of a Viennese author who escaped from the Nazis to France in 1938. This book was written at the time and has an immediacy of etail I have not seen elsewhere. Extraordinary.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dida

    I should have read this in German.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    I really waffled on how to rate this book. Can some books just not have to be rated? Can they exist outside some sort of rating spectrum? For here we have the memoirs of an Austrian, Jewish, man forced to flee to France after the Anschluss, then subjected to more persecutions, first the micro-aggression pas d'histories attitude he encounters in many of his interactions in French, and then further macro-aggressive Nazi awfulness once the Nazis invade France. Through a combination of good fortune I really waffled on how to rate this book. Can some books just not have to be rated? Can they exist outside some sort of rating spectrum? For here we have the memoirs of an Austrian, Jewish, man forced to flee to France after the Anschluss, then subjected to more persecutions, first the micro-aggression pas d'histories attitude he encounters in many of his interactions in French, and then further macro-aggressive Nazi awfulness once the Nazis invade France. Through a combination of good fortune and hard work by members of the French Resistance, Scheyer, his wife, and his non-Jewish housekeeper (who chooses to throw her lot in with the Scheyer's rather than reap the "benefits" of her Aryaness), survive the Nazi regime in France, but not after some close calls and some internments in French concentration camps. So that's why I have trouble rating it. I can't say I enjoyed reading about how awful human beings can be to each other (and possibly, since my last netgalley book was about the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, I need to pick some lighter ARC reads), and I can't say that, either emotionally or stylistically, the memoir made me feel anything, say in the vein of Suite Française, which details some of the same events, such as the occupation and fleeing of Paris. Of course Asylum obviously isn't a book written with a purpose of giving me the feels or entertaining me or anyone else. It's not even written with the intent of educating anyone. It's testimony, but it's dry and a bit dated, and Scheyer isn't that likeable, which actually may be the book's strongest point. When told that he should be suitably grateful, suitably thankful, suitably happy about his release from concentration camps, you can feel his anger and despair burble up to the surface. Why should he be happy, when it's just a trick of luck and connections that got him free? Why should he be happy most of society did nothing and will likely do nothing again if the Nazis and French sympathizers round him up again? Why should he be happy when the call of the day is it's only the Jews? That, that anger and displeasure, will be what I take away from this memoir, in a time when there are calls for certain groups not to be so angry, not to be so strident, not to be so other, just to be like "us" and wait your turn and smile at all the atrocities, big and small, perpetrated by the strong against the weak. Sit down, shut up, don't complain, always smile. Yeah, that worked out so well in the past. Anger, when we see injustice, is good. Anger is what we need. Thank you Asylum for reminding me of that. Asylum by Moriz Scheyer went on sale September 27, 2016. I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    One of the things I love about reading various books based on a similar topic or point in history, is the various perspectives you're able to find. Moriz Scheyer's memoir of his life in France as a Jewish man during the Holocaust era differs from many others as his time in the camps was limited. That doesn't however, make this any less difficult to read. Moriz Schyer spends much of his time noting the many people who chose not to acknowledge the happenings as they were not affected, and describe One of the things I love about reading various books based on a similar topic or point in history, is the various perspectives you're able to find. Moriz Scheyer's memoir of his life in France as a Jewish man during the Holocaust era differs from many others as his time in the camps was limited. That doesn't however, make this any less difficult to read. Moriz Schyer spends much of his time noting the many people who chose not to acknowledge the happenings as they were not affected, and describes the years of constant anxiety that he and his family were exposed to. Asylum shows the other side of the story of those who were able to stay on the run, and remain hidden while also dealing with the daily struggles of not only fearing for your own life but for being aware of how many people you knew, that were suffering horrible fates. Now more than ever I feel this is a book everyone should read. It really hits the nail on the head when describing what horrific things stem from those who choose to close their eyes to atrocities and follow the crowd like sheep.

  17. 5 out of 5

    J.J.

    Maybe this book was so vivid to me because I've lived and traveled in Salzburg and Vienna and recognized many of the places Scheyer wrote about. But honestly I think the writing of this survivor account was the most literary I've read, and I've read quite a few accounts. Very important work to the body of literature of those that survived and lived to tell. Maybe this book was so vivid to me because I've lived and traveled in Salzburg and Vienna and recognized many of the places Scheyer wrote about. But honestly I think the writing of this survivor account was the most literary I've read, and I've read quite a few accounts. Very important work to the body of literature of those that survived and lived to tell.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Schneider

    Well written. I won this book through Goodreads.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nissa

    Very compelling and informative. Another well written account of a devastating time in history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  24. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

  25. 4 out of 5

    Janice

  26. 5 out of 5

    George

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Frey

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jody Russell Manning

  29. 5 out of 5

    elizabeth veldon

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diane

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