About the Book
“Try to Make Your Life”: A Jewish Girl Hiding in Nazi Berlin
by Margot Friedlander with Malin Schwerdtfeger
translated from the German by William Gilcher
Published by BEA Press, Potomac, Maryland USA, April 2014
ISBN 978-1-935034-07-0 • Non-fiction memoir
Malin Schwerdtfeger is a freelance writer based in Berlin.
On January 25, 1943, the day of a planned escape from Nazi Germany, 22-year-old Margot Bendheim learns that the Gestapo has just taken her brother and mother. Her mother manages to leave her a message, “Try to make your life.”
Alone and forsaken, Margot removes her yellow star, dyes her hair red to hide her Jewish looks, and goes underground. For fifteen months, she lives in hiding in Berlin, aided by Germans whose motives are not always clear. Then, in 1944, she is arrested and taken to Theresienstadt, where with considerable luck she survives the horrors of that Nazi death camp until liberation.
Afterwards, Margot marries, emigrates to the US, and lives in New York City with her husband, Adolf Friedlander. After his passing, she finds support – and a memoir-writing class – at New York City’s 92nd Street Y. And so she starts to build a new life for herself as she begins to write this memoir. That new life brought her back to Berlin in 2010, which is once again the city she calls home. Now, almost seventy years after liberation, Margot Bendheim Friedlander tells us her remarkable life story – a haunting, personal tale of hope, courage and the will to live.
This memoir was originally written in Margot’s native German and published in 2008 by Rowohlt Verlag. The following year she won Germany’s prestigious bi-annual Einhard Prize for the best autobiography or biography. Two years later, at age 88, she was awarded a national medal for her work promoting knowledge of the holocaust to the German public. She continues speaking to groups throughout central Europe and to visitors from all over the world. In “Try to Make Your Life” Margot tells her story to an English-speaking audience in her own strong voice.
“Today, sixty years later, [Margot Friedlander] recounts her ... dramatic story of hope and betrayal, of civil courage in a time of terror, and of the unwavering will to survive.”
Die Gemeinde (publication of the Jewish community, Vienna, Austria)
“How can you make a life after you’ve lost everything and everyone who is dear to you? How can you make your life as a survivor, fight to continue? Margot’s personal narrative explains why she tried to make a life.” – Claire Goldstein Simmons, lecturer on Jewish history and the Holocaust
“A book worth recommending, one that reflects the horror of the persecution of the Jews in a very personal manner.”
Buchprofile (publication for the book trade in Germany)
“The moving story of a life destroyed by Germans and rescued by Germans.”
“Very personally and movingly told - the lively account of a dark chapter of German history.”
Die Tageszeitung (Berlin)
Publication was made possible in part by a grant from the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation.