A Short Story of a Long Life
The author starts by telling about his birth in war-torn Austria where his family had lived since the 15th century when they escaped from the Inquisition in Spain. His father was not present at the time of his birth. He was fighting the Italians whom he liked and admired, but was loyal to the Austrian emperor.
In spite of family tradition, the boy did not feel comfortable in his country mostly because of rising anti-Semitism. In a proletarian glider club, he made his first flights and when he left high school, he went to the Central Flying School in Prague where he became a pilot with a commercial license.
Studies in aeronautical engineering followed as did work as a test pilot in Italy, then more of both, in England. When WWII broke out, he joined the Royal Air Force, was sent on a special mission to Czechoslovakia where he got stranded. He hired on as a navigator on board a broken-down paddle wheeler to carry illegal emigrants to Palestine down the Danube, across the Black Sea, passing the Turkish straits into the Mediterranean. The ship was detained in many places and the journey lasted six months, ending up with a boiler explosion in the Aegean Sea. The Italian navy rescued all 500 passengers and crew who were interned on the island of Rhodes, then transferred to another camp in Calabria, Italy.
Emerich Salzberger managed to escape and with the help of an Italian fisherman, made it to Malta, then British. After stays in hospitals to regain weight and strength, he was re-activated in the R.A.F., fought as a pilot in northern Africa with the desert air force and finally, went all the way up through Italy to the Austrian border.
After the war, he returned to Britain to work as an experimental test pilot followed with periods of aviation work in Palestine and Australia. His parents survived the war hidden in the house of a Slovakian friend. They later moved to Mexico. Emerich, who had not seen them during the war, went to visit them for a fortnight, or so he thought. He has spent the years since then, from 1947 to now, in Mexico, first working for an airline, later starting his own aerial survey company which he ran for over 50 years. Age and health forced him into retirement, resulting in this book.