One of our recommended books for 2019 is On the Run in Nazi Berlin by Bert Lewyn

ON THE RUN IN NAZI BERLIN

A Memoir


Bert Lewyn was still a teenager when he and his parents were arrested by the Gestapo. It was 1942 in wartime Berlin. While his parents were sent to a concentration camp, Bert’s youth and training as a machinist made him useful. He was sent to work in a weapons factory. He received one postcard from his parents, then never heard from them again.

Through a combination of luck and will to survive, Bert fled the factory and lived underground in Berlin. By hook or crook, he found shelter, sometimes with compassionate civilians, sometimes with others who found his skills useful,

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Bert Lewyn was still a teenager when he and his parents were arrested by the Gestapo. It was 1942 in wartime Berlin. While his parents were sent to a concentration camp, Bert’s youth and training as a machinist made him useful. He was sent to work in a weapons factory. He received one postcard from his parents, then never heard from them again.

Through a combination of luck and will to survive, Bert fled the factory and lived underground in Berlin. By hook or crook, he found shelter, sometimes with compassionate civilians, sometimes with others who found his skills useful, sometimes in the cellars of bombed out buildings. Without identity papers, he survived in part by successfully mimicking German civilians—even masquerading as a German soldier or SS officer. He had several close calls with the Gestapo and was eventually captured. But Bert masterminded an ingenious escape and remained free until the end of the war. Before World War II, there were 160,000 Jews living in Berlin. By 1945 only 3,000 remained alive. Bert was one of the few who survived.

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  • Chicago Review Press
  • Paperback
  • March 2019
  • 400 Pages
  • 9781641601108

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$18.99

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About Bert Lewyn & Bev Saltzman Lewyn

Bert & Bev Lewyn are the authors of On the Run in Nazi BerlinBert Lewyn was born Dagobert Lewin in Berlin. He emigrated to the United States in 1949 and settled in Atlanta, Georgia. He Americanized his name and started a family. He never discussed his wartime experiences with anyone. In 1993, his daughter-in-law, Bev Lewyn, who worked as a researcher for CNN, persuaded him to tell his story. His son, Lawrence, edited the final manuscript and Bert self-published his memoir in 2001. He died in 2016.

Praise

On the Run in Nazi Berlin should be mandatory reading: a memoir that reads like a thriller, full of suspense, horror, humor, and the unquenchable determination to survive. An important contribution to the literature that reminds us: never forget.” — Jenna Blum, Bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family

“[Offers] extraordinary insight… Well-written, readable, and honest, the eyewitness story is enhanced throughout by photographs and documents. This story of this Jewish family touched my heart, and I highly recommend this memoir.” — Denise George, Coauthor of The Lost Eleven and Behind Nazi Lines

“A grim and gripping story of survival in a most egregious time.” – Kirkus Reviews

 

Discussion Questions

1. The Gestapo arrested Bert and his family, sending the latter to their deaths but Bert to work in a factory. Why do you think Bert’s life was spared?

2. What was the Kusitzky family risking by letting Bert hide in their home?

3. At one-point Bert calls himself a “Flying Dutchman.” What implications does that term have?

4. Bert mentions luck and fortune playing a big role in survival. In Chapter 22, Bert says, “Once again, fortune has favored us to an almost miraculous degree.” In what ways was fortune favoring Bert throughout the book?

5. Why do you think Bert stayed in Berlin during WWII instead of hiding elsewhere? Was it riskier to stay in or leave Germany?

6. To survive the war, Bert did several crazy things: held onto the top of a moving train, posed as an SS officer, stole cars from the gestapo, fashioned a key out of a piece of lead pipe, etc. How is this different or like other books you’ve read about the Holocaust?

7. Unlike other Holocaust narratives, Bert was never in a concentration camp, nor was he hidden in one place. Does his story change your perceptions about what life was like living in the capitol of Berlin?

8. While researching for his memoir, Bert was stunned to find that he was legally married to Ilse, and only remembered posing as husband and wife. Why and how do you think he forgot such an important event?

9. After arriving in the United States after the war, Bert changes his name from Dagobert to Bert. Why did he do this? Do you think this change was necessary? Why or why not?

10. Did the images and photographs in the book enhance your understanding of the war? Why or why not?