12:30 minutes (6.01 MB)
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"We are going to pick potatoes." That's what the family housekeeper told four-year-old Irene Levin when she was whisked off from her playgroup in the park to flee German-occupied Norway.
In 1942, Irene Levin was one of 1,200 Norwegian Jews who escaped to Sweden during World War II. Nearly 800 remaining Jews were deported and murdered in Auschwitz. Irene's memories of life in Norway during and after the war are the subject of her book, "We Are Going to Pick Potatoes," Norway and the Holocaust, the Untold Story."
Published by Rowman and Littlefield, the book chronicles a largely unknown chapter in World War II history. It is also the story of one woman's rediscovery of her childhood role and her family's war experiences, and the resilience of the human spirit.
Rabbi Michael Melchior, Chief Rabbi of Norway and former Israeli Cabinet minister calls the book "an important personal and passionate story which gives new perspective to the greatest crime humanity has known - the Holocaust."
The book describes the integration of Jews into Norwegian society from 1854 through the war years. Irene offers a poignant account of what happened to her family during the war, including the loss of seven members of her father's family. They were among the 771 Jews who were sent to Auschwitz.
After the war, the book focuses on the silence and denial among the returning Jews who only referred to those who perished in Auschwitz as "having disappeared." She hauntingly recalls the gaps in the Jewish community created by these missing relatives.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has added the Norwegian version of the book to its library, making it available to scholars and the public.
The book will have its official launch at the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford on April 1 along with an exhibit from the Oslo Jewish Museum. The exhibit, at the Greenberg Center's Sherman Museum, includes information about Norwegian Jews and their contribution to Norwegian art and culture, as well as their participation in the Norwegian resistance movement.