Kirkus called this mother-daughter memoir “an outstanding portrait of the painful postwar waltz of Germans, their victims, and their victims’ victims.”

About the Book

One woman’s moving story of her journey with her mother to find their past and the tragedy that haunts them. In 1938, when Edith Westerfeld was twelve, her parents sent her from Germany to America to escape the Nazis. Edith survived, but most of her family perished in the death camps. Unable to face the losses of her family and homeland, Edith closed the door on her past, refusing to discuss even the smallest details. Fifty-four years later, when the void of her childhood was consuming her and her family, she returned to
Stockstadt with her grown daughter Fern to reconnect and reconcile with her past. Together, Edith and Fern found a town that had dramatically changed on the surface, but that hid guilty secrets and lived in enduring denial. Motherland is a story of learning to face the past, of remembering and honoring while looking forward and letting go. It is an account of the war’s lingering grip on its witnesses; yet it is also a loving story of mothers and daughters, roots, understanding, and, ultimately, healing.

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  • Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award 2000
  • Illinois State Library’s Read-For-A-Lifetime 2007-2008 title
  • Barnes & Noble Discover New Great Writers title
  • Featured title for “Quad Cities Reads” and “Racine Reads” (One book/one community book groups)
  • BookSense 76 pick
  • Booklist’s list of “Holocaust Literature: Best of the Year” title (2000)
  • Featured on The Oprah Show
  • German and Dutch editions (The book is read in German classrooms to teach tolerance.)
  • Illinois State Library Read-For-A-Lifetime 2007-2008 Booklist
  • Selection for One Book/One Community programs at Libertyville/Vernon Hills, IL; Racine, WI; and the Quad Cities, IL, IA
  • The Illinois Association of the Teachers of English (IATE) selected Fern Schumer Chapman as its 2004 Illinois Author of the Year.

Author Awards