Soaring Underground: A Young Fugitive's Life in Nazi Berlin

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Howells House, 1996 - Biography & Autobiography - 344 pages
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Now in book form, this is the intensely moving first-person account of "the Auschwitz Memoirist's extraordinary manuscript" described in Philip Roth's Patrimony: A True Story. This is the true story of a young man born at the wrong time in the wrong place. Lothar Orbach's family proudly traces its German heritage back to the fifteenth century, but that is no help to a Jewish boy coming of age in Hitler's Berlin. His promising school career is aborted by Nazi decree and his close-knit family splintered by his brothers' emigration and the arrest of his father, who vowed he would leave the beloved Fatherland "only on the very last train." But Arnold Orbach's last train is destined for Sachsenhausen, and when his ashes return, Lothar, the baby of the family, becomes the man of the house. When the Gestapo comes for his mother, she and Lothar escape with false identity papers; his mother finds sanctuary with a family of staunch Communists, and Lothar, as Gerhard Peters, enters Berlin's underworld of desperate and unforgettable characters called "divers": Tad, the clever and charismatic pool hustler who teaches Gerhard everything he knows, Opa, the evil card shark, Erika, the Jewish beauty who gives herself without her heart, Ilse, Kitty, Eva, Hans and many others who help him survive. Some of his experiences, in the words of one reviewer, are surrealistic: being hosted by an admiring German U-boat commander and spending a week in a high-ranking Nazi's home which had once belonged to a prominent Jew. Ultimately, he is betrayed and sent to Auschwitz, where he just barely survives. At the center of this world gone mad is Gerhard, outwardly a cagey, amoral street thug, inwardly a sensitive, romantic youth, devoted son, and increasingly religious Jew, clinging to his humanity and his belief in God but letting his irrepressible spirit soar while underground.
 

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Contents

Preface
1
Prologue
5
Born in a Gathering Storm
9
The Institute Orbach
23
We Are Going Under
53
Silent Night Holy Night
65
A Very Busy Day
77
Learning the Angles
107
From Street to Sanctuary
193
Hauling Coal Lifting Cash
219
Vice Squad
251
A Pause for Passover
269
Learning to Swim
275
Betrayal
297
Vignettes of Hell
315
Picking Up the Pieces
329

Houseguests
131
Stacking the Deck with Opa
157
Warmed by an Old Flame
175
Epilogue
337
Acknowledgments
343
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