A Dream Surpassing Every Impasse: Becoming a Doctor Against All Odds: As an Austrian Jew, on the Eve of World War II, A Memoir
This candid and intimate memoir -- filled with charming photographs from the 1930s, and onwards up to the present day -- tells the story of the adventurous and triumphant life of world-renowned radiologist, Hans Herlinger. Dr. Herlinger, born in Austria to a Jewish family with Hungarian and Yugoslav roots, not only survived World War II, his most important contributions to medicine were made during the sixth, seventh, and even eighth decades of his life. What is still more remarkable, perhaps, is that his story reveals the crucial role that a life-defining dream plays during catastrophic times. For without his fervent hope of becoming a doctor, it is quite possible that Herlinger would not have survived those harrowing years when World War II raged throughout Europe and around the world. Hans Herlinger was born in Graz, Austria after the turn of the century, and was blessed with a nearly idyllic boyhood. He went skiing in the Austrian Alps with his younger brother, Pauli; swam in the clear, cold water of Lake Balaton in Hungary; and, with his family, played on the beach in the seaside resort town of Abbazia, Italy, each summer. A gifted student as well as an excellent athlete, Hans knew early on that he wanted to be a doctor, and enrolled in medical school as soon as he completed college. But as he was about to take his final exams prior to earning his medical degree, his life was violently derailed by the Nazi rise to power. Unexpectedly, Hans was arrested and imprisoned. A few weeks later, his younger brother joined him in the Graz jail. The Herlingers, along with many others in their hometown, were incarcerated because anti-Semitic social policies at the heart of the Nazi agenda werebeginning to make themselves felt -- even before the annexation of Austria by Germany in March of 1938. Fortunately, those social policies had not yet turned deadly. Hans and Pauli were released after several months, but told they must leave their country or face re-arrest. Hans, and later on his brother, flew to Trieste, a seaside town not far from Abbazia, the resort where they'd spent so many summers as children. Stranded in Italy, no longer able to attend school, Hans despaired of ever finishing his studies and earning his medical degree. As he sat at an outdoor caf with other young Jewish Austrians forced into exile, he noticed a sign across the piazza that said 'British Trade Delegation." What happened next was the beginning of Hans Herlinger's initiation into adult life, an initiation which lasted during all the long years of the war. In fact, it became his foundational training, testing his resolve by challenging him at every turn. These wartime experiences helped Herlinger become a dedicated, innovative, and much-loved physician, particularly during his quarter century at the University of Pennsylvania. But as Hans Herlinger would be the first to admit, he did not achieve what he ultimately did without the appearance, at critical moments in his long journey, of a magical way forward. Whenever an insurmountable obstacle appeared to block his path, an alternate route materialized soon after. This may indeed be the true power of a life-defining dream: it allows the dreamer to manifest his own path throughout a long life. Hans Herlinger's memoir is a romantic adventure spanning eight decades of the twentieth century, and offering glimpses of many parts of the world during theearlier years of that century. Above all, it is a memoir that tells the story of a great and touchingly human life.
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