The subtitle of Hiding Places: A Father and His Sons Retrace Their Family’s Escape from the Holocaust almost says it all. Daniel Rose wanted to re-connect—with family, both present and past, and with his own lapsed Judaism. After a bitter divorce, Rose felt the need to bond again with his two sons, ages twelve and seven. As one of the very few Jews growing up in a WASP Connecticut town, he had all but denied his Jewishness, and his marriage to a Christian woman only reinforced his sense of separation. He decided that a return to his religious roots lay in Europe where he would trace the escape routes his older relatives took to safety during the Nazi holocaust.
He and his sons took the voyage of discovery together, although some of the tragic things they learned made them wish at times they had not done it. With the help of his parents' Belgian relations, who are described in sometimes hilarious detail, they painstakingly reconstructed the events of fifty years before. Or did they? Much of what was discovered appears to be supposition and wishful thinking of the most tenuous kind. Using a somewhat mystifying journal compiled by Rose's uncle, they traveled back and forth between Belgium and France locating such supposed hiding places as a barn loft, a brothel, and a Paris synagogue that was amazingly kept open during the entire war. The description of an abandoned French transit camp is especially chilling.
The book consists largely of recreated conversations and although it is called a work of nonfiction, Rose admits that he has “imagined” some of the details and changed names, locales, and even people's characteristics. Just why he did this and what is true or fictionalized is left to the reader to discern. The author writes an appealing story and for some his embellishments may enhance the work. For others it will be a distinct drawback.