When Europe Was a Prison Camp: Peter Schrag Book Talk
In a compelling approach to storytelling, When Europe Was a Prison Camp weaves together two accounts of a family’s eventual escape from Occupied Europe. One, a memoir written by the father in 1941; the other, begun by the son in the 1980s, fills in the story of himself and his mother, supplemented by historical research. The result is both personal and provocative, involving as it does issues of history and memory, fiction and “truth,” courage and resignation. This is not a “Holocaust memoir.” The Schrags were Jews, and Otto was interned, under execrable conditions, in southern France. But Otto, with the help of a heroic wife, escaped the camp before the start of massive transfers of prisoners “to the East,” and Peter and his mother escaped from Belgium before the Jews were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. Yet, the danger and suffering, the comradeship and betrayal, the naïve hopes and cynical despair of those in prison and those in peril are everywhere in evidence.
Peter Schrag is an IGS Visiting Scholar and former editorial page editor and columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Schrag writes a weekly clumn for the California Progress Report, and has been a contributor to The Nation for almost 50 years. He is the author of Paradise Lost: California’s Experience, America’s Future and California: America’s High Stakes Experiment, and Not Fit for Our Society: Nativism, Eugenics, Immigration.