Heimat: Historical literary fiction by Paul Marzell
Matthias Schmidt left his Heimat, Neisse, Germany, in April 1929 to follow thousands of other Europeans for a better future in the United States. Reluctantly he left his mother, a girlfriend, sisters, many relatives, and friends. But he also left an intolerable situation behind. He planned to return as an American citizen, a shining example of American success, marry his girlfriend and bring her to America. En route to Bremerhaven and his ship to America, his plans began to change when he impulsively saved an American diplomat from the tracks in Berlin’s Lehrter Bahnhof. The heroic act bonded Matthias and three other travelers in a friendship that sustained them through broken promises, misconceptions of the American dream, the Great Depression, Prohibition, and World War Two. Josef Turner, a watchmaker, left Neisse on a whim. Edo Rabinowitz, a tailor, escaped nationally sanctioned anti-Semitism. A teenage farm boy, Feliks Bartol, was sent to America by his family because their farm could not support him. Before the outbreak of World War Two, Matthias questioned his commitment to his plan as letters from his mother, girlfriend, sisters, and others urged him to return as the Nazi regime improved Germany’s economy and national pride. Instead, the war severed contact with his family, sending him and his friends on separate paths: to a shipyard building vessels to carry destruction to their Heimat, the US Army fighting in the Pacific, Germany’s Wehrmacht invading France and Russia, and the Nuremberg trials to bring Nazi war criminals to justice.