Holocaust survivor shares story of untold German hero who saved 3,700 Jews
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New memoir Shedding Our Stars also brings to light friendship with Anne Frank
SEATTLE, Washington – Noted Holocaust survivor and contributor to Anne Frank: The Critical Edition, Laureen Nussbaum has published several dozens of academic papers, but for the first time is telling her own story alongside that of an unsung German hero, Hans Calmeyer.
In Shedding Our Stars: The Story of Hans Calmeyer and How He Saved Thousands of Families Like Mine (October 1, 2019, She Writes Press), Nussbaum paints the unsparingly realistic picture of what life was like in Amsterdam for herself, her friend Anne Frank and their families – and how one young lawyer took enormous risks to save at least 3,700 Jews from deportation and death.
During the German occupation of the Netherlands, 1940 to 1945, all Jews were ordered to register the religion of their grandparents. The Reichskommissar appointed Hans Calmeyer to adjudicate “doubtful cases.” The young lawyer used his assignment to spare thousands of lives and in doing so dwarfed the number of Jews saved by Schindler’s famous rescue operation.
Nussbaum―née Hannelore Klein―owes her life to this brave German official. In Shedding Our Stars, she tells how Calmeyer declared her mother non-Jewish and deleted her and her family from the deportation lists. Going beyond the liberation of the Netherlands to follow both Calmeyer’s and the author’s stories, Shedding Our Stars is a raw tale of courage in the darkest of times and of the resilience of the human spirit.
LAUREEN KLEIN NUSSBAUM was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1927. When she was eight years old, her family left for Amsterdam where Laureen would continue her education before and during the German occupation. After the war, she studied physics with her fiance Rudi Nussbaum at the Amsterdam Municipal University and subsequently worked as a junior journalist and as an X-ray technician. Laureen and Rudi married, had three children and moved with their family to the United States where Laureen later received her BA in German. While teaching part-time, Laureen continued her studies, eventually earning her PhD at the University of Washington. This allowed her to become a full-time professor of German at Portland State University, where she taught for another 10 years. Now 92 years old, Laureen is one of the very few people left who personally knew Anne Frank, whose senior she was by two years. Laureen presently lives in Seattle, Washington and is finally sharing her story of survival and of the life of Hans Calmeyer in Shedding Our Stars: The Story of Hans Calmeyer and How He Saved Thousands of Families Like Mine available October 1, 2019.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Shedding Our Stars: The Story of Hans Calmeyer and How He Saved Thousands of Families Like Mine
Laureen Nussbaum | October 1, 2019 | She Writes Press
Format ISBN: 9781631526367 | Price:
In an interview, LAUREEN NUSSBAUM can discuss:
* Why she decided to share her experience now
* Her decision to integrate her story with Hans Calmeyer
* The unique intersection between memoir and biography at which her title sits
* How resistance played a role during her teenage years and how it has changed over the years
* Her connection to Anne Frank, and why her fate was so different
* Why her experiences during the World War II years are today so eerily applicable
An Interview with LAUREEN NUSSBAUM
What made the hero of your book, Hans Calmeyer, such an outstanding person?
Hans Calmeyer had the courage of his convictions. He was raised in a rather religious Lutheran family and took the 10 Commandments seriously. He became a lawyer, never joined the Nazi party and consequently was temporarily suspended from the bar before the outbreak of World War II. Calmeyer used his assignment in the occupied Netherlands to save the lives of as many Jews as he could. For the rest of his life, he felt guilty for not having saved more.
Why do the experiences that happened in Europe three-quarters of a century ago still matter today?
After the end of World War II, many of us were sure that this war and the holocaust were the absolute low point of human history. People would have learned and the United Nations would guarantee peace. Now, the situation in the US shows many parallels with that of the Weimar Republic between the two World Wars. Hopefully it is not too late to draw some lessons from history!
Can you tell us a little bit about your experience knowing Anne Frank and her family?
The Franks and my family, the Kleins, knew each other in Frankfurt, moved to the same neighborhood in Amsterdam and saw each other frequently. I was 1 ½ year younger than Anne’s sister Margot and 2 years older than Anne. 1936-1940, I saw more of Margot than of Anne, but in 1941 Anne acted in a play that I directed in my parents’ apartment. She was alert and lively and learned her lines quickly. I had no idea that she would become famous!
Shedding Our Stars is an emotional mix of memoir and autobiography. How did you decide to mix your story with Hans Calmeyer’s?
The idea of interweaving my own memoir with the biography of Hans Calmeyer came from several friends: The writer Ursula LeGuin, the colleague Tony Wolk and my co-author Karen Kirtley, who all felt that my own story would add to the human interest of the book. I was reluctant but then greatly enjoyed writing the memoir sections.
You also survived the Hunger Winter of 1944-45 in which 20,000 people died of starvation. How did this shape your perspective on top of oppression from Nazis?
The Hunger Winter gave me a first-hand experience of how the millions of very poor people of this earth have to live all their life. We always knew that our plight was only temporary. I also learned a great deal about human kindness during that devastating time. Most of all it taught me to take responsibility.
What did you learn through your experience that you think should be more applied to today’s culture?
Young people in their early teens should be taken more seriously. That applied to Anne Frank as well as to myself. They can take responsibility and often are eager to do so. Adults need to encourage and help them.
What do you hope people take away from your book?
Foremost people can learn from Hans Calmeyer that evil can be resisted not necessarily always by force, but sometimes by clever subterfuge. Which is what he did. There is nothing as pernicious as the lame excuse: “What can I as an individual do?” People can undermine evil by sabotaging it and most of all, by banding together against it.