Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Three works by Merilyn Moos on refugee history

Merilyn Moos has been in touch to remind those interested in the history of refugees of her three important books, all published in the last 5/6 years, which all relate in different forms to her being the child of political refugees from Nazism. The first is a semi-autobiographical novel: ‘The Language of Silence’, then came the biography of her father Siegi Moos: ‘Beaten but not defeated’ (he was a highly active anti-Nazi, a well- known if somewhat dissident member of the KPD and a published writer about the role of agit-prop in revolutionary struggle: his life illustrates the little known grass roots anti-Nazi activism of the years between 1929-33), and finally ‘Breaking the Silence’ an ethnographic study of the effects on the ‘second generation’ of being the children of refugees from Nazism, based on in-depth interviews. She would be happy to send out review copies of these books to those interested in reviewing them, and is happy to also speak to interested groups about them or issues relating to refugees and history today. 
Some links:
The Language of Silence
The Language of Silence, set in London in the early 21st century, provides a remarkable exploration of the personal consequences of political events and resistance, and how these impact across four generations of one family. It is a novel of immense power, shocking in its portrayal of family life, which nevertheless inspires hope for the future.
Beaten but not defeated
Siegi Moos, an anti-Nazi and active member of the German Communist Party, escaped Germany in 1933 and, exiled in Britain, sought another route to the transformation of capitalism. This biography charts Siegi’s life, starting in Germany when he witnessed the Bavarian uprisings of 1918/19 and moving to the later rise of the extreme right. We follow his progress in Berlin as a committed Communist and an active anti-Nazi in the well-organised Red Front, before much of the German Communist party (KPD) took the Nazis seriously, and his deep involvement in the Free Thinkers and in agit-prop theatre. The book also describes Siegi’s life as an exile: the loss of family, comrades, his first language and ultimately his earlier political beliefs. Against a background of the loneliness of exile, the political and the personal became indissolubly intertwined when Siegi’s wife, Lotte, had a relationship with an Irish/Soviet spy. Lastly, we look into Siegi’s time as a research worker at the prestigious Oxford Institute of Statistics at Oxford University from 1938, becoming an economic advisor under the Labour Prime Minister, Wilson, 1966-1970, and how, finally, after retirement, he returned to writing.
Breaking the Silence
There has been extensive research into the impact of the Holocaust on the children of survivors who immigrated to the US and Israel. But very little work in this space has looked at children whose parents fled Nazi persecution before the Holocaust. Even less attention has been paid to those who ended up in Britain from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.  What was the impact on this second generation? How have the lives of these ordinary people been shaped by their parents’ dislocation? Using a series of interviews with members of the second generation, Breaking the Silence is a qualitative, interdisciplinary exploration how their lives were shaped by their parents’ escape from persecution. It offers an insight into how the exile and fear of persecution of the parents and the deaths/murder of unknown relatives has left this generation both bereft of memories and haunted by the past. 

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