Hiding in Plain Sight: The
Incredible True Story of a German-Jewish Teenager's Struggle to
Hiding in Plain Sight: The Incredible True Story
of a German-Jewish Teenager's Struggle to Survive in Nazi-occupied Poland
By Betty Lauer (Smith & Kraus, Inc., $27.95, 550 pages )
There was a time when Holocaust literature was slim indeed, when there was
little more than the "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "Judgment at Nurenberg"
to acquaint a mass audience with the enormity of the horrors. For the most
part, the subject was avoided. "Nobody wanted to touch the wounds" was the
way a survivor friend of ours put it.
And then things changed. Maybe it was the impact of the Eichmann trial or
the euphoria following the Six Day War. In any event, by the time
"Schindler's List" brought the detailed machinery of the extermination of
the Jews to a world-wide audience, so many novels, memoirs, and historical
accounts had been published, so many films and plays had been produced,
one could wonder what was left to be said. But of course there was more.
And now we have "Hiding in Plain Sight," a memoir that ensnares, envelops
and grips the reader for 550 pages, every one a page turner. Despite its
length, this is the proverbial book you cannot put down, an intimate,
detailed, miraculous account of a single teenaged girl who, together with
her mother, takes on the entire Nazi apparatus, outwitting the Gestapo and
the Poles that aided them in their obsessive search for Jews from 1939 to
the war's end.
The writer has incredible powers of recall and memorable powers of
description; she brings to life a multitude of characters: how they looked
and spoke, what they wore, the impressions they wished to create, the
impressions they inadvertently revealed. She traces an eight year odyssey
that brought her from a comfortable German home to a series of Polish
locales, convincing a hostile world that Betty Lauer, a German Jew, is
Krystyna Zolkos, a Polish Catholic -- even though she speaks Polish with a
The book begins in 1938 when Betty is twelve years old. Her father, a
prosperous German businessman, has left his wife and two daughters for
America planning for them to join him soon after. But they become caught
in an increasingly ominous trap. The entire Jewish community of their city
is forcibly relocated to Poland. At first the three find havens with
loving relatives. But as the noose tightens, they move from one locale to
another, avoiding the ghetto and transports, ultimately deciding to live
out the war "hiding in plain sight." Betty and her mother succeed. Her
sister, Eva, is discovered and killed.
Betty's survival is due, in no small part, to her extraordinary mother,
who assumes the role of Krystyna's aunt and is among other things a shrewd
judge of character, observant, quick on her feet and on the uptake,
skilled at making the correct expression, adept at dealing with people.
She knows how to make friends, how to bribe with class, whom to trust, how
The book takes the reader, year by year, through the disastrous period,
describing events as witnessed by a young girl struggling to stay alive in
an alien, hostile world. There are incidents of courage and kindness, many
more of cruelty and betrayal, descriptions of lesser known events: the
Warsaw uprising of the summer of 1944, the destruction of Warsaw by the
Nazis and the forced evacuation of the entire city's population, life in
those parts of Poland appropriated by Germany during the war and populated
by ethnic Germans, the slow liberation of Poland by the Russians, the
chaotic post-war conditions, encroachment of Communism after the war.
Forthright, powerful and moving, this book brings one inside the mind and
heart of one brave young girl who managed the miracle of surviving by
"hiding in plain sight."
About the Authors: Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband
team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional
scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories
It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in
America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in
Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.
They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining
as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United
States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
about these authors.
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This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer. All rights