The Nazis were less harsh

Mark Mazower

  • Mischka’s War: A Story of Survival from War-Torn Europe to New York by Sheila Fitzpatrick
    I.B. Tauris, 336 pp, £20.00, June 2017, ISBN 978 1 78831 022 2

In 1989, the Soviet historian Sheila Fitzpatrick, well known to readers of the LRB, was on a plane when the passenger next to her struck up a conversation. She’d been watching him write a letter in French and on that basis assumed he was French. Given her accent he thought at first that she was Danish. Later it seemed appropriate to her that their first conversation had been about language and labels and the confusion of belonging. In fact, Fitzpatrick is Australian and when she asked the man where he was from, he answered: ‘The Baltics.’ And then, grudgingly: ‘The middle one.’ He evidently liked to withhold information – at least on questions of origin. On other things he was less reticent. While they were still airborne he told her he was falling in love with her. They were married a few months later. Now, nearly twenty years after her husband’s death, Fitzpatrick has written a moving, thoughtful book which uses the story of his family to explore unfamiliar and ambiguous historical terrain.

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