... lingering tastes and luscious aromas...permeate Meriel Schindler’s affecting The Lost Café Schindler ... The endless maneuvering between Kurt’s family and the authorities of each successive government can be tedious to wade through until you realize, as Ms. Schindler does, the dispiriting and enraging impact they must have had on Kurt [Schindler] as he doggedly pursued his claims through the decades ... it is still difficult to keep all the complicated connections straight, and the details of one intertwined story can blur into another. She also can’t refrain from following up on various historical sidebars, some of which are less interesting than others. Yet through her research she clearly documents the simmering presence of anti-Semitism in the Tyrol throughout the decades that preceded Hitler’s rise. Those tropes are unsettlingly visible in the vicious political cartoons and pamphlets, some of which are reproduced here ... Ms. Schindler’s insight-filled reckoning with the past can’t help but leave behind a bitter taste that no amount of Sacher torte can disguise.
While the stories could scarcely be more powerful, a tighter edit would have made the book even more compelling. There is too much signposting, too much exposition, too many tangents ... Meriel could easily have removed herself from much of the narrative and let her investigative efforts speak for themselves. Instead, she has treated writing a book as though it’s like solving a maths problem, where you have to show all your working ... Her family story is so fascinating that you forgive any foibles, though. I think some readers will think that there’s a bigger problem; at the book’s close you still do not understand Meriel’s father and what made him go rogue. Yet that feels like Kurt’s destiny, to remain an enigma—even to his daughter.
Meriel Schindler’s precise and very well researched book effectively traces her family history from her great-grandfather’s time and is set to the backdrop of a Central Europe enduring the turbulent times of two world wars; very dramatically so for Jewish people who were to encounter a history of resentment and persecution ... quite an educational, yet gripping story and the sometimes grand history of the Café Schindler ... a comprehensive guide and insights into what life was like for entrepreneurial people during the decline of the Austro-Hungarian empire, its participation in the First World War, the growing prejudice towards and the persecution of Jewish people, Hitler’s ascendancy, Kristallnacht, the Second World War and its aftermath ... Overall this is a very readable, illuminating, informative and enjoyable book, though at times one might not be quite sure whether it was written and intended simply as a storyline or was meant to be something more academic in nature. In some ways it might also be seen to be twin-tracked, even perhaps multi-tracked in its approaches and in what it achieves ... It certainly succeeds in providing that ‘way in’ to the history and social circumstances of the times, from the 1850s to the present, and we gain a perspective on the two world wars from geographical and culturally different perspectives that reflect a genuine feel for the times portrayed.
Schindler’s book...does provide an impressively researched account of Jewish life in the Tyrol up to and during the Second World War ... there is an extraordinary sub plot involving an Innsbruck doctor, Dr Bloch, who treated the young Adolf Hitler’s mother in 1907, and who in earning the undying gratitude of the Fuhrer was able not only to survive the war but help several fellow Jews escape it ... Schindler, a lawyer, has a professional obsession with the small print and draws on the vast amounts of Nazi documentation to painstakingly piece together the various convoluted (and illegal) transfers of property and assets ... But such a scrupulous fixation with detail is not always to her story’s advantage. Schindler carefully resists over-characterising relatives she never met, but lacks the novelist’s flair for properly animating her narrative. There are a couple of agonising letters sent to Kurt by his grandmother and aunt before they were deported to Poland, but also many dry clods of facts, conscientiously excavated, which feel more useful to the historian than the lay reader. More interesting are the details that fall between the cracks, and the aspects of our inherited histories that we cling to but which can never be verified.
... a skillfully crafted narrative interweaving one family's story with larger events while also considering complex themes of memory, guilt, and accountability. The author's fast-paced writing reads like a novel, and she includes family recipes and photographs that add a personal touch to an already intimate story ... A must-read work of narrative nonfiction that's highly recommended for readers of memoirs or 20th-century European history.
... powerful ... In her impressively researched debut, attorney Schindler offers a sprawling, haunted narrative ... Beyond the compelling personal details, the author chillingly documents how the livelihoods of Austrian Jews were destroyed ... Schindler brings the faded figures of her forebears to life via extensive archival research, but by returning to her misanthropic father’s presence, she also unearths fascinating digressions ... Throughout, Schindler writes vividly about representation, memory, and the aftermath of atrocity. A significant addition to the literature on the Holocaust.