The inspiration behind the Golden Globe-winning film.
“The sheer emotion of telling the tale is palpable. The whole is moving and strange beyond belief.”
— The Times (London)
With his mother’s parting words “You must stay alive!” ringing in his ears, fourteen-year-old Solomon Perel set out from Nazi-occupied Poland hoping to find safety across the new Soviet frontier. Like large numbers of other Jews fleeing the Germans, Perel faced staggering odds against his survival. What actually transpired was far different from what anyone could have imagined. By a startling twist of fate, the young Jew found unexpected refuge...as a student in an elite Hitler Youth school. Now this extraordinary and true story appears in English translation for the first time. With searing power and passion, Europa, Europa recounts Solomon Perel’s harrowing struggle living a nightmare from which there seemed no escape.
By the time Solly, as he was called by his family, left Poland that night in 1939, he was already an experienced refugee. Sensing the oncoming Nazi terror, his family had fled Germany several years before. This time, however, the family could not stay together and the youngster would soon be on his own.
Reaching the Soviet shore after a dramatic river crossing, Perel was placed in a Russian orphanage, where he was accepted into the Komsomol, the Communist organization for young people. Then came June 22, 1941. When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, Perel was ordered, along with the other Jewish children, to flee into the interior. He fell into the hands of the German forces. Paralyzed by fear, and with a courage born of despair, Perel told his captors that he was, in reality, an ethnic German. To his astonishment, he was believed, and from that point on, his survival centered on his ability to conceal his true identity.
Taken under the wing of the Wehrmacht unit, Perel experienced combat, and was lauded as a model of German youth contributing at the front. Then, in an extraordinary turn of events, Perel was transferred back to Germany, and awarded a coveted spot in an exclusive boarding school training Hitler Youth to face the challenges of the Führer’s vision of postwar Europe. Tormented by the ethical struggle of his position—in effect, joining the ranks of those attempting to exterminate his people—at the same time Perel lived in terror of what seemed the inevitable discovery of his real identity.
Europa, Europa is a profound, unflinching, and unforgettable account of a young boy’s perilous journey toward manhood, trapped in a world gone mad, and tortured by the role he played. Solomon Perel’s inner turmoil, remarkable courage and resourcefulness, and above all, his fierce determination to survive come across with searing force. This deeply moving memoir is an important and controversial contribution to our understanding of the complexity of life under the Third Reich. From the book jacket.
“It is a Holocaust memoir that is moving, straightforward, and quite completely bizarre, unsettling in all kinds of assumptions about identity, responsibility, and guilt.”
— Glasgow Herald
“Perel bares his soul to readers in this fascinating, unusual personal narrative of the Holocaust.”
— Book Report
“Many of the experiences of Holocaust survivors are incredible. None is more incredible than the story of a Jewish boy, Solomon Perel, who escaped from Germany to Russia, served with the Wehrmacht in Russia, was adopted by his commanding officer, and transferred to an elite Hitler Youth school.”
— London Jewish News
“A most remarkable story...extraordinary.”
— The Australian
“This book will move human hearts.”
— Berliner Morgenpost
Solomon Perel is a businessman in Tel Aviv, Israel.