Book Review: Home without a Homeland

February 8, 2012 by Arts Editor
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“Home without a Homeland”, Nora Huppert’s enthralling memoir of her five migrations, will be launched at Sydney Jewish Museum by Litzi Lemberg, President of the Sydney Child Survivors Group.

Book cover

The book tells how her family’s comfortable life in Berlin was disrupted by the rise of the Nazis. Seeing what was coming, they fled to Prague, from where Nora was offered a place on the first Kindertransport to England. Her father, a radical journalist, had already escaped to London. They both spent the War years in England, Nora with a generous upper class family in the country. Meanwhile her mother and brother were marooned in Europe, waiting for the papers that never came.

Sources used in the book include letters, diaries, contemporary pictures, articles, books and films and previously unpublished family memoirs. A harrowing series of letters from the woman who sheltered Nora’s mother and brother during their final months describes their daily struggle to avoid the tightening net.

Her vivid account of those years, of working in post-War London, meeting her Austrian doctor husband, Peter, living with him all over the country as he worked his way up the medical hierarchy, then migrating to Tasmania, as far as possible from Cold War Europe, is an enthralling story. As her daughters grew up, resourceful and resilient Nora built herself an Australian career in the new field of social welfare, marriage and family counselling.

The cities of Europe between the Wars, Britain during the Blitz, post-War London and Switzerland, and Australia as experienced by a middle class migrant family are all vividly evoked in the book. Nora’s father’s and husband’s internment as ‘enemy aliens’ and their subsequent release into useful Allied War work; the tightening of the Nazi net around those like her mother and brother, marooned in Prague; the dispersal to camps and exile of family and friends from the great European cities; the rise and fall of Communism, all key into the cataclysmic events of the twentieth century. Nora’s own story shows the importance of courage, endurance and a clear-eyed sense of purpose.

In the final chapters of the book, she travels back with her husband and daughter to the scenes of her childhood and youth: Prague, London and the English countryside, Berlin, Vienna and New York, and Lithuania where her maternal grandparents owned substantial properties. She makes contact with the scattered survivors of her family and shares these reunions with her daughter and with readers. In the final chapter, Nicholas Winton’s Children, she meets the benefactor who arranged the Kindertransport which gave her the gift of life. In its affectionate detail and generous understanding of its characters, and in the way it moves confidently through changing worlds, Nora’s story will intrigue and move all those who read it.

You are warmly invited to attend what promises to be another pleasant celebration of the successful Community Stories initiative at the Museum on Feb-19 at 3pm.

About the author:

While in Tasmania raising her family, Nora joined the Country Women’s Association and spent two years as local President. She was then recommended for training for the newly-established Marriage Guidance Council. When the family moved to Sydney in 1965, she became a volunteer counsellor and attended overseas workshops and training in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. In 1990 she started a private  practice, as well as continuing with her MGC work. She then joined the family counselling and mediation services of Unifam. She has served on the executives of professional associations and contributed to journals. In addition, she has volunteered to help new migrants through the Jewish welfare organisation, the B’nai B’rith, and is actively involved in the anti-racist initiative, Courage to Care.

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