Just when we think we’ve read all the Holocaust books that we can, Bernard Rosner and Frederic Tubach come up with a book that almost defies definition. It certainly is about the Holocaust, but it is so much more. It is a short book and in its way, an almost quiet book. Mostly it is a story about living in spite of death’s remarkable odds. How does a young lad from Hungary live beyond the deaths of his family members and the memory of the death camps? How does a young man who was a member of the Hitler Youth, and who admits to stealing a candle from a Jewish home just days after the Kristallnacht, find his way out of such darkness?
The story of the paths taken and how they eventually cross is told for both men in the voice of Tubach. A chance meeting between their wives brought the men together in the relaxed setting of suburban northern California. The two men shared a love of music, art and literature and what developed was a friendship steeped in respect and admiration. They had been friends for many years when, after visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., Bernie knew he needed to tell his story, and who better to tell it to than his friend, Fritz. As Bernie reached backward to his most painful memories, Fritz, too, revealed the texture of his own youth from the opposite side of the same years.
This is a book about the bridge these two men built out of their friendship. They built it with the mortar of their friendship and their shared hope for a civilized world. It is a bridge built to span one of humankind’s worst divides and it is a book that asks the reader to cross that bridge with them.
Ten years ago, when this review was written, neither author could have imagined how the publication of their book would impact their lives and the lives of those readers so remarkably touched by An Uncommon Friendship. Then in 2010, in an effort to share that impact, the book was republished as An Uncommon Friendship: From Opposite Sides of the Holocaust, With a New Epilogue. It continues to be an uncommon friendship and a most uncommon book. 2/1/2012.
Frederick Tubach and Bernard Rosner University of California Press