Hitler, Stalin, Mum and Dad: A Family Memoir of Miraculous Survival



‘Epic, moving and important’ ROBERT HARRIS

‘A modern classic’ OBSERVER

‘An unforgettable epic of a book’DAILY MAIL

From longstanding political columnist and commentator Daniel Finkelstein, a powerful memoir exploring both his mother and his father’s devastating experiences of persecution, resistance and survival during the Second World War.

Daniel’s mother Mirjam Wiener was the youngest of three daughters born in Germany to Alfred and Margarete Wiener. Alfred, a decorated hero from the Great War, is now widely acknowledged to have been the first person to recognise the existential danger Hitler posed to the Jews and began, in 1933, to catalogue in detail Nazi crimes. After moving his family to Amsterdam, he relocated his library to London and was preparing to bring over his wife and children when Germany invaded the Netherlands. Before long, the family was rounded up, robbed and sent to starve in Bergen-Belsen.

Daniel’s father Ludwik was born in Lwów, the only child of a prosperous Jewish family. In 1939, after Hitler and Stalin carved up Poland, Ludwik’s father was arrested and sentenced to hard labour in the Gulag. Meanwhile, deported to Siberia and working as a slave labourer on a collective farm, Ludwik survived the freezing winters in a tiny house he built from cow dung.

Hitler, Stalin, Mum and Dad is a deeply moving, personal and at times horrifying memoir about Finkelstein’s parents’ experiences at the hands of the two genocidal dictators of the twentieth century. It is a story of persecution; survival; and the consequences of totalitarianism told with the almost unimaginable bravery of two ordinary families shining through.

‘Danny Finkelstein has written an elegant, moving account of the history of one family, and in doing so shines light on the history of the 20th century. If you want to understand Hitler and Stalin, read this book about people whose lives were upended by both of them’ ANNE APPLEBAUM, author of Gulag: A History, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

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EAN: 2000000404349 SKU: 1AF90C6D Category:

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William Collins (8 Jun. 2023)



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22723 KB



Screen Reader


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Print length

505 pages

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( 8 Reviews )
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8 Reviews For This Product

  1. 08

    by Mrs. M. Daw

    A most moving biography of war time Europe, which tells of Stalinist atrocities against the people of Central Europe, which are every bit as inhuman as Nazi crimes , but which are not very well known in England. So this book is history come to life. Lwow, or Lemberg, was a thriving cosmopolitan, city in Galicia, until 1920 part of the Habsburg empire, where Lord Finkelstein ‘s father, professor Finkelstein was born
    and miraculously survived Stalinist deportation. I have read it three times now

  2. 08

    by John b.

    Very interesting

  3. 08

    by Nikki

    Five stars from me for this book, on two counts:

    The reading experience: It’s an astonishing survival story – or rather two, one of the Nazi holocaust and one of the Soviet gulags – that converge into one family’s origin story – which had me enthralled from beginning to end. The fact that these two children survived long enough to become the ‘Mum and Dad’ of the title depends on a series of dramatic twists and turns and horrifically narrow escapes, making the book utterly gripping. The book is both personal and hugely informative, thought-provoking as well as moving and inspiring. There’s even a surprising amount of (pitch-black, but always appropriate) humour in places, such as Mirjam Finkelstein’s dead-pan reply “So what? I’ve been” when told that Reagan was planning to visit Belsen.

    The fact of its existence: Books like this are hugely important in keeping stories like these in the public eye, and fresh in the memories of new generations. This one felt particularly impactful for me as it continues the legacy of the Wiener Library set up by the author’s grandfather in bearing witness to the horrific events and inspiring lives it describes. The inclusion of two very different parallel stories explicitly and deliberately connects the horrors of the Nazi regime to the less often discussed crimes of the Soviets, shining a light on both. I certainly learned a lot from this, and I feel that its dual focus means that almost anyone, even those familiar with one part of the narrative, could discover something new from this book.

  4. 08

    by Kathryn, fan of Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike A great learning experience

    I read this book having heard Jeremy Vine interview Daniel on the radio. Not sure why but I was compelled to read it. I have to admit I was a bit frightened of what I might read and learn, being somewhat aware of the concentration camps and persecution of Jewish people, only from school or TV. I knew nothing of the plight of the people of Poland under Soviet rule. I found the book to be easy to read, in the sense that I could understand it and was engrossed in it. Not easy in the sense of at times the horrific content in the story.
    I thank Daniel Finkleman for telling this family history, and whilst it’s not easy to read of the hideous things his family went through, it is right that ordinary people like me are able to read it in its great detail, to understand and appreciate their plight.
    I fear the world we live in, and whilst we hoped and fought the last World War to end all wars, humanity clearly has not learned anything, afterall its not so very long ago! Maybe if more people read this book, and others like it, may serve as a reminder of the evil human beings are capable of…
    A great book, amazing read, thank you

  5. 08

    by K Webster

    moving, true and balanced. Beautifully written account of the vile horror inflicted on innocent victims, and how they survived. This should become an accessible reference book in every school, because a history forgotten is likely to be repeated, and nobody should have to go through this again.

  6. 08

    by Holly H

    Strongly recommend this book. A moving account of this family and their story, supported by narrative about the political picture that shaped their lives and so many others. I found this book hard to put down. An important reminder of the horrors of recent history.

  7. 08

    by Amazon Customer

    Can’t review this book yet as this is a Christmas present but I am sure she will love this.

  8. 08

    by Amazon Customer

    This was an absolutely gripping read which I could not put down! An incredibly engaging story which sheds light on the history of the Ukranian/Polish border as well as the extraordinary efforts of Albert Weiner (the writer’s grandfather) a patriotic German Jew, to warn all and anyone he could about the dangers of anti-semitism. It describes the twin terrors of the rise of Nazism in Germany and the descruction of the Polish Jews in Lviv by the Russians and Germans alike.
    The narrative brings the personal tragedies, as well as the wider political and cultural terror and collapse, to light in a way which is amazingly gripping.
    Of course the emotional and personal involvement makes one feel involved in every twist and turn. So much courage and just a hair’s breadth between death and life.
    How would I have coped or reacted to the extreme privation, alienation and oppression that was meted out my the Stalinist and Nazi perpetrators? Could any of us cope now, will we be brave enough?
    An extraordinary story asking terrifiying questions of each one of us.

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Hitler, Stalin, Mum and Dad: A Family Memoir of Miraculous Survival