Theo Lindheim is a wealthy department store owner in Berlin. He is a prominent World War 1 decorated hero, married with three children. He is also Jewish, which in 1933, is not the most comfortable heritage to have.
Theo’s daughter Elisa is a talented violinist playing with an orchestra in Vienna. Her best friends Leah and Rudy are also musicians and Jewish, although with a Gentile mother, Elisa is only half Jewish.
To Hitler and his regime, to possess just a small amount of Jewish lineage is an outrage and absolutely unacceptable.
“Vienna Prelude” is suspenseful, tragic, emotional, and heartbreaking, and the worst of it is that much of it is true (the only fictional part of this novel is probably the characters’ names). The book is so meticulously researched and historically accurate that this series is recognized by the American Library Association, used in Zionist libraries around the world and used to teach history in college classes.
Rescues, false identification papers and forgeries, danger, border crossings, romance, risk-filled escapes… it’s all here.
“Yes. The passport. Thank you. I got it very quickly. Twice more I have been to Germany, and the document has made life much less complicated.”
“You’ve been there since –“ he frowned – “even with all this going on? Don’t you realize you might get yourself caught in the middle of a Nazi Panzer division heading this way?”
“I can take care of myself.” She turned away, shutting the bedroom door. “But thank you.”
What makes this novel so enthralling, is that it is not just packed with the tension of outward circumstances but also realistically portrays the inner frustrations of the human heart.
Is Elisa a little bit fickle? is she maybe just a little bit manipulative, looking out only for her own interest as she waffles between two love interests to determine who can most aid her father?
“The Nazis had planned his arrest weeks before. We sent your own passports and the names on the lists. Yes, your father knew what was inside the case. Last Christmas when you came back with the case and your father did not return, we opened it after Rudy redeemed it from you.” Leah smiled sadly. “Your father had sent enough to us in gems and bills to purchase seven hundred passports. Illegal passports for German Jewish children. Do you know what a great man your father was?” She turned her eyes on Elisa. “So many saved, but not himself.”
What about those in Hitler’s cabinet… are there any military advisors who will take a stand? and the nations of the world… who will stick their neck out and stop Hitler as he violates one article after another of the Treaty of Versailles?
I have the first five books in this series and had read them many years ago, but this first book in the series was fresh and new to me, and I found myself absorbed in Elisa’s story and hoping against hope that her father would escape the fate of so many, many Jews (and dissidents of all races) in those terrible times in history. Not only a novel about the hardships during one of the most difficult times in human history, it is also a novel about the the price of integrity and ultimate triumph of the human spirit over hatred and despair.
“The stars still move, time runs, right is still right, and there will be an end to evil one day.”
If you haven’t read “Vienna Prelude”, I hope you track a copy down and start it… just make sure you have days and days of available time on your calendar because you won’t want to stop with the first book in the series. Highly recommended.