When Memory Comes: The Classic Memoir
When Memory Comes, first published in 1978, is a memoir that has become a classic. Saul Friedlander’s boyhood coincided with the Holocaust. His family fled from Prague to France. His parents were later taken away and killed at Auschwitz, while he, a small Jewish boy, was taken from one sanctuary to another, mostly in Catholic surroundings. With each move, his language, his name, even his status changed so that he acquired a series of new identities.
Later, he realized that he had passed over to Catholicism body and soul. At his first Passover seder with Russian-Jewish guardians in Paris, he was urged to eat the meat course, the highlight of the meal, but he could only refuse. The Catholic years, which he never disparages, gave way to the restoration of his Jewish heritage. He recognized “how authentic the familiar, informal side of Jewish prayer can be.”
In 1947, he was gripped by the spirit of Zionism and joined Betar, the youth division of Irgun, widely termed a terrorist organization, which was striving for Israel’s independence. He has since achieved renown for his writing on Israel’s history and has taught history at several universities.
When Memory Comes demonstrates a distinctive style. Friedlander’s skill in moving fluidly and coherently back and forth across the years, as “memory came back in waves,” is a pattern that fosters a wholly human empathy.
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