Beate's Journey is an autobiographical story of a German Jewish family living in Berlin prior and during the Hitler era. It is important to recognize that the narrative is written in the third person because its author felt more comfortable with a detached view of her early lifetime. In the early l930s, Germany's new national leader, Adolf Hitler, became obsessed with the belief that the Jews and those who dissented from his national politics were in the way of putting the country on its feet again after the defeat in WWI. This story provides material for a dialogue with young as well as older readers, who might learn from and gain a better understanding of a period of history in the twentieth century, in which six million lives were destroyed due to religious differences. There is an interesting chain of events occurring through both good times as well as difficult ones. Leaving Berlin, Germany in the fall of l940 was a heart-breaking experience for a German-Jewish family. Beate, the youngest member did not understand the urgency of the trip. The mother was yearning for the good old past, and frightened of the future. The brother was all ready for an adventure beyond his wildest dreams with his journal ready to take notes. The father, who had suffered several set-backs during a two-year long emigration process, but stayed the course, was now elated and anxiously looking forward to a safe and speedy journey to freedom. There are many unusual aspects concerning the journey. Just to mention a few, there is the incident early into the train ride when the young son mysteriously disappeared during a long station-stop. The parents were frantic when they couldn't find him as the train was about to depart. Luckily, the boy had only temporarily vanished. He had met an elderly refugee woman who was diabetic and needed an errand boy to fetch her cold beverages from the club car. At the end of this escapade, the family was extremely embarrassed for having held up the train. Another notable chapter was the Moscow experience which described the daughter's impression of the beautiful waiting room at the train station and the colorful dressed people gathered there. Still another strange incident took place in the old hotel with an unexpected Russian bear greeting the hotel guests on the staircase, and an irate porter in the suite worried about a piano which was part of the furnishings. And lastly, the tour of the city with stops at the well-known Red Square to see the Kremlin, and the multi-colored, onion-shaped domes of the St. Basil church. The sightseers also got a glimpse of the hidden national treasures on permanent display in an underground subway station, and finally a visit to the city's modern but empty Department Store. The family traveled on the historical Trans-Siberian Railway, which was an uncommon experience for the children. The brother counted the tunnels they passed through, and Beate was awed by the tranquility of Lake Baikal in the southern part of Siberia. There was an interesting overnight in the city of Harbin, China, where the family and their fellow refugees spent a night in a small hotel, which offered them a hot meal, sleeping accommodations like the natives on straw mats in a communal setting. The father had the best of times by getting into a hot tub for a relaxing scrub which he so well deserved for having been a tower of strength during the long emigration process. There was a bit of unwelcome excitement during a ferry crossing over the Sea of Japan. The rough sea emptied a lot of stomachs of most of the seasick passengers during a two hour excursion. When the ferry reached the Japanese side, the unhappy voyagers were very glad to leave the boat and be on terra firma again. Another close call for the family was the race to meet their waiting American steamship in Yokohama, which was a hair's breath away from leaving without them.
About Bea Soofer
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Published February 7, 2005
Biographies & Memoirs.