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Sheltered from the Swastika

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Excerpts from Sheltered from the Swastika by Peter Kory

From the Preface ...

... While my story parallels that of all too many others who were in similar circumstances, it differs in one important respect. Many tales on the subject tend to arouse sympathy, evoke pity, outrage and remorse, and wallow in the pain, suffering and misery of the war. Because I have always had an optimistic, almost naïve and, sometimes, even a humorous outlook on the events I encountered, I perceived my experiences as adventures rather than ordeals, perhaps because I knew no other life for comparison. Taken together, these events make up a story similar to Voltaire’s 1759 novel, Candide. Voltaire, a giant of French literature famous for his biting satires and his profound cynicism about society, wrote of the adventures of Candide, who believed that his world was the best of all possible worlds, one where everything that occurred was for the best. Voltaire’s sinister satire was the realization that there was no truth in this, and that to believe it would unfailingly lead to disaster.

Unlike Voltaire, it was not cynicism that accompanied me through the war years. Rather, like Candide, I have always managed to find a very personal niche of comfort from which to deal with adversity. In fact, I have always considered myself an extraordinarily lucky individual, even while surviving some fairly cruel turns of events. And, fortunately for me, my story has a better ending. The dominant theme of my life has always been survival—often in the midst of very confusing and dire circumstances. As such, my story describes one life among so many with similar experiences and, in the process, adds another increment to the treasury of memories spawned by the Second World War.

My tale is bracketed by two events in my life that I find unforgettable. The earlier took place in 1932. I was less than two years old when I experienced what I can only describe as a prescient encounter with Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. My tale ends in 1948 when the S.S. Mauretania, having brought me from the port of Le Havre in France to New York, sailed past the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, signaling the start of a new life on a new continent. While the encounter with the Gate filled me with undefined and unexplained fear and dread, the statue in the harbor overwhelmed me with hope and expectations. The time in between is what this book is all about—flight from the evolving persecution in Germany, escape from the Stukas and Blitzkrieg in Belgium, the search for my imprisoned father, changing identities, flight from discovery, escape gone wrong, a new life and a new family in a château in France, coming face to face with Hitler’s dreaded SS, kidnapped for religious reasons by well-meaning Zionist zealots, deprivations in postwar orphanages, the court battle over my future ... and through it all, kismet has been both my guardian and my nemesis.