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  • The Lost Café Schindler

  • One Family, Two Wars and the Search for Truth
  • By: Meriel Schindler
  • Narrated by: Kristin Atherton
  • Length: 14 hrs and 30 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (32 ratings)

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The Lost Café Schindler

By: Meriel Schindler
Narrated by: Kristin Atherton
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Summary

Kurt Schindler was an impossible man. His daughter, Meriel, spent her adult life trying to keep him at bay. Kurt had made extravagant claims about their family history. Were they really related to Franz Kafka and Oscar Schindler, of Schindler's List fame? Or Hitler's Jewish doctor - Dr Bloch? What really happened on Kristallnacht, the night that Nazis beat Kurt's father half to death and ransacked the family home? 

When Kurt died in 2017, Meriel felt compelled to resolve her mixed feelings about him and to solve the mysteries he had left behind. Starting with photos and papers found in Kurt's isolated cottage, Meriel embarked on a journey of discovery taking her to Austria, Italy and the USA. She reconnected family members scattered by feuding and war. She pieced together an extraordinary story taking in two centuries, two world wars and a family business: the famous Café Schindler. Launched in 1922 as an antidote to the horrors of the First World War, this grand café became the whirling social centre of Innsbruck. And then the Nazis arrived. 

Through the story of the Café Schindler and the threads that spool out from it, this moving book weaves together memoir, family history and an untold story of the Jews of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It explores the restorative power of writing and offers listeners a profound reflection on memory, truth, trauma and the importance of cake.

©2021 Meriel Schindler (P)2021 Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Exceptional story beautifully told

The best book I have listened too. Not sure what to do now it is finished.

3 people found this helpful

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Lost memories come to life.

A brilliant bitter-sweet telling of a family history, gently pulling together a group of characters from pre-war Bohemia, Vienna and the Tyrol. The careful historical research is easily digestible, illuminating the fascinating diverse characters who establish a family business in Linz and Innsbruck.

1 person found this helpful

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Absolutely fascinating!

This story, about the family Schindler, is fascinating. The detail is both humorous and harrowing. Lovingly told from the perspective of a daughter who doesn’t know what to make of her beloved/infuriating father’s lies, her research takes her back to the very beginning of the Cafe Schindler in Innsbruck. It is exquisitely read by Kristin Atherton, who ‘became’ Meriel in my head. I cannot recommend this enough.

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Man's unimaginable inhumanity to man

In the scrupulous research of her Tyrolean father's life , Meriel Schindler has produced a very personal and detailed account of Jewish life in Innsbruck in the 1930s and beyond before and after the targeting and annihilation of Jews by German forces. It is of course a fearful story but the Austrian angle is less common and more interesting to read about.

The author's father Kurt (whose testimony she knows cannot be relied on given his false stories) kept the Cafe Schindler in Innsbruck, an almost magical place where people gathered for schnapps, debate, jazz and a sumptuous array of cream cakes - until it was stolen from him by the Nazis and the family eventually lost everything.. The author's descriptions of Kristallnacht are heartbreakingly terrible as is the whole catalogue of indelible cruelties and killings meted out to the Jewish people in those years of crazed destruction.

As well as all this, the author also debates the reliability and unreliability of memory and whether there can be such a thing as truth.; also insight into the experiences of displaced people, and the consequences of deep trauma.

The book comes from conscientious research into which the driven author has clearly poured all her heart as well as her legal training. It seems almost ungrateful to say that it's over-long, but some of the detail (particularly the painstaking years of post -war restoration battles by the family} could have been pruned to advantage.

The narration is extremely competent and sensitive and her German is perfect, but her intonation is rather curious and with such a long book - 14 hours - for me it became irritating.

This is an admirable and moving tribute to the author's family,

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BEST BOOK OF 2021

A wonderful story !! I felt I was part of the Schindler family and Innsbruck. The book will stay with me forever.