Excerpt from A Bookshop in Berlin by Francoise Frenkel, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Bookshop in Berlin

The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman's Harrowing Escape from the Nazis

by Francoise Frenkel

A Bookshop in Berlin by Francoise Frenkel X
A Bookshop in Berlin by Francoise Frenkel
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Dec 2019, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2020, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jamie Chornoby
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter 2
On the Eve of WWII:
Three Days Before the Bombing of Paris

In France, nobody believed war was approaching. I breathed in the air of the capital. Very swiftly, I allowed myself to be won over by the general feeling of confidence. I found myself hopeful of an imminent departure and of being reunited with my family.

Throughout these days of heightened crisis, Paris retained its usual outward appearance: movement, color, vitality.

People were discussing the situation on the café terraces, on street corners. In the metro, they would read their neighbor's newspaper over their shoulder; the need to communicate and, if possible, to discover any fresh details from somebody who was perhaps better informed, spurred people to speak to anybody they encountered, to stop in the street to listen, to look, to discuss matters endlessly.

The general public would wait outside the printers' to buy the papers, ink still wet from the presses. The crowd would jostle to snatch up any new issue; news vendors on their bicycles seemed to sprout wings as they flew down the street. People queued up in front of the newsstands well before the arrival of the newspaper couriers. Some would take several papers, of differing opinion, scour them feverishly on the spot, then pass them on to other readers.

At times the mainstream broadsheets would reassure the population; at other times they encouraged people to prepare for the inevitable.

Radios blared relentlessly in homes, courtyards, squares, offices, restaurants, and cafés. It was impossible to escape their hold. Their rasping tones permeated everywhere, even into theaters, and into the intervals of classical music concerts.

People listened haphazardly to bulletins in any language. A true tower of Babel! Some made certain to wake up in the middle of the night to listen to American broadcasts. It was an obsession! Nervous tension grew to indescribable levels in those days.

Utterly consumed by a fervent desire for peace, the French people were hoping. The notorious phrase: Last year, too, we expected the worst and yet everything worked out ... circulated from mouth to mouth, like the chorus of a popular song.

Which is why, when hostilities broke out, the whole of France was plunged into dark despair.

For me, it was heartrendingly distressing.

Only then did I truly comprehend the distance separating me from my mother. I saw myself remaining far from her and all my loved ones for the duration of the war, that is for an eternity of torment and worry about them.

The German army was advancing, trampling over Poland and taking control. I anxiously followed the enemy's lightning progress on the map ...

The wireless relentlessly reported the horrifying details of carnage, battles, bombardment, devastation, and civilian massacres. Bulletins were broadcast at mealtimes and one had to get used to eating, drinking, chewing, swallowing, all the while listening to the bloody and disastrous stories in the news. Horror made itself at home in everyday life.

From one day to the next, Paris had fallen strangely silent. And so began for France that curious military lull, "the Phoney War."

It was then the press initiated an extensive campaign against what was known as "the Fifth Column," which had been growing for years. Keen for a diversion, the general public became obsessed with these sensational revelations.

The prefecture of police instituted "extraordinary measures" of a broad-reaching nature, resolving to conduct a census of all foreigners and to review their status.

These measures, drawn up without any forethought, were implemented on the spot. Police stations, hotel management, landlords, concierges, all those who employed foreigners were asked to ensure compliance with the new regulations.

The whole population started to keep an eye out for "suspects." Overnight, thousands of foreigners took up position in front of the prefecture of police, forming a line that stretched past the Quai aux Fleurs and reached all the way to Boulevard Saint-Michel.

From A Bookshop in Berlin: The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman's Harrowing Escape from the Nazis by Françoise Frenkel. Reprinted by permission of Atria, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Copyright © 2019 by Françoise Frenkel.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Kristallnacht

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Winter in Sokcho
    Winter in Sokcho
    by Elisa Dusapin
    Our unnamed narrator is a young French-Korean woman who works at a guest house in Sokcho, a popular ...
  • Book Jacket: Second Place
    Second Place
    by Rachel Cusk
    Rachel Cusk's Outline trilogy drew much of its substance from monologues and dialogues that swirled ...
  • Book Jacket: The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
    The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
    by Julietta Henderson
    The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is the comedic debut novel of writer Julietta Henderson. It ...
  • Book Jacket: In Search of a Kingdom
    In Search of a Kingdom
    by Laurence Bergreen
    The Age of Exploration in the early modern period, lasting roughly from the 15th through 16th ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Of Women and Salt
by Gabriela Garcia
A kaleidoscopic portrait of generations of women from a 19th-century Cuban cigar factory to the present day.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Crossing the River
    by Carol Smith

    A powerful exploration of grief that combines memoir, reportage, and lessons in how to heal.

  • Book Jacket

    Ariadne
    by Jennifer Saint

    A mesmerizing debut novel about Ariadne, Princess of Crete for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe.

Who Said...

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some to be chewed on and digested.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S I T closet

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.