Spirit the Tyrants Could Not Crush ; Margarete Buber-Neumann's Gripping Story of How She Could Not Crush Survived the Death Camps of Both Hitler and Stalin
Lebrecht, Norman, The Evening Standard (London, England)
Under Two Dictators: Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler Meltdown by Martin Baker (Macmillan, Pounds 17.99 ) CHRIS BLACKHURST
MARGARETE Buber-Neumann was known to me as the sympathetic biographer of Milena Jesenska, Kafka's last love, whom she met and befriended in the Ravensbruck concentration camp.
Milena died of exhaustion in May 1944 and, writes Margarete, "life seemed to have no further point". But her will to live was stronger than she knew and the sinewy text of this stark and extraordinary book suggests why.
The child of a tyrannical German father, she was drawn to intellectuals and revolutionaries and married one of each first Rafael Buber, son of the Jewish religious philosopher (with whom she had two daughters and a quick divorce), and second Heinz Neumann, an independent-minded communist who was an early friend of Stalin's.
When Hitler came to power in 1933, the couple fled to Moscow, taking up residence in a hotel for political exiles. Heinz was seized in Stalin's first wave of purges in 1937 and summarily shot; his wife was unable to obtain confirmation of his whereabouts or his death.
Harried by officialdom, she was herself arrested, interrogated and condemned as a "socially dangerous element" to five years of "reformatory labour in a camp".
Not Siberia but Kazakhstan, where the earth's surface was just as tough and the camp regime indifferent to the life or death of any prisoner. Guards and male prisoners offered her food in exchange for sex: "In here a woman must have a good camp husband if she doesn't want to starve." Somehow, she got by.
Halfway into her sentence, she was loaded onto a train and shipped back to jail in Moscow where, she hoped for a reprieve until she realised that this was a …
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Publication information: Article title: Spirit the Tyrants Could Not Crush ; Margarete Buber-Neumann's Gripping Story of How She Could Not Crush Survived the Death Camps of Both Hitler and Stalin. Contributors: Lebrecht, Norman - Author. Newspaper title: The Evening Standard (London, England). Publication date: December 31, 2007. Page number: 32. © Not available. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.