WIENERWALD – AND IN THE VIENNA WOODS THE TREES REMAIN
By Elisabeth Åsbrink
And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain by Elisabeth Åsbrink is an intricate weave of documents, substantive narrative and emotional commentary.
Otto, a Jewish boy, was sent from Austria to Sweden right before the outbreak of World War II. There he became best friends with Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA.
Despite the huge Swedish resistance to Jews, the 13-year-old Otto Ullman was granted permission to enter Sweden – all in accordance with the Swedish archbishop’s secret plan to save Jews on condition that they converted to Christianity.
Otto found work as a farmhand at the Kamprad family’s farm Elmtaryd in Agunnaryd in the province of Småland. Ingvar and Otto became very close friends. But at the same time, Ingvar Kamprad was actively engaged in Nazi organisations and a great supporter of the fascist Per Engdahl. Otto’s parents were trapped in Vienna, and the last letters he received were sent from Theresienstadt.
With over 500 letters and thorough research as a starting point, Elisabeth Åsbrink portrays how Swedish society was infused with anti-Semitism and how families are shattered by war and asylum politics. The book contains interviews with Ingvar Kamprad.
Elisabeth Åsbrink’s book reveals previously unknown facts about Ingvar Kamprad. Her sources are personal files initiated by the predecessor to today’s Swedish Security Service (SÄPO).
Elisabeth Åsbrink was awarded both the Swedish August Prize and the Polish Kapuściński Prize for the book.
ABOUT THE BOOK
First published by Natur & Kultur, 2012
Czech Republic, Vydavatelstvo Absynt S.R.O.
Denmark, People’s Press
Hungary, K. u. K. Kiadó
The Netherlands, Querido
World English, Other Press (US)
”This longing and desperation is only heightened by Asbrink’s deep research on the systemic antisemitism in Sweden at the time, as well as her gorgeous prose. Using uniquely haunting and beautiful language, Asbrink (and Vogel) convey the agony and hopelessness of one family ripped apart, as well as the overpowering sense of doom blanketing Europe.”
Jewish Book Council
“Top-notch microcosmic World War II history and an excellent illustration of the immense power of the written word.”
“Åsbrink brings us a testimony, that must be remembered and is as urgent as unbearable.”
“In beautiful prose the author brings history of suffering to the present”
“A masterpiece … The stack of letters from the war is in itself an unprecedented basis for a documentary work about the Jewish and Nazi atrocities. But Elisabeth Åsbrink is more than a journalist, more than an observing chronicler. She is a poet. Gently she weaves her own family’s fate, and her research into history. With the touch of a fiction writer she brings the over 70-years-old drama to new life. With a pen of a poet she revives a story that could have been forgotten. Page after page I’m impressed by Åsbrinks sense of language, her outstanding communication skills, her superior literary endowment.”
“A dramatic and masterly put together showdown with Swedish racism between the wars. (…) Åsbrinks book is more than very good, in the multicultural Norway it is also completely up to date.”
“And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain… is only now appearing in English, in Saskia Vogel’s smooth translation… fascinating….To make the separation more bearable, Otto’s parents had resolved to write to him every day. These letters form the basis of Åsbrink’s touching book, and though only a couple of Otto’s have survived, it is possible to trace what he was doing from his parents’ side of the correspondence. Åsbrink has added much research of her own.”
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