... a heartbreaking and timely read ... With a reporter’s eye for narrative and a historian’s attention to detail and context, Dobbs re-creates Jewish life in Kippenheim, a German village near the French border, on the eve of the Nazi onslaught. Then, thanks to a trove of carefully assembled archival material, photographs and oral histories, he follows these Jewish families through harrowing cycles of deportation and desperation as they attempt to flee to safety ... There are times when Dobbs’s precise recounting of the byzantine immigration process becomes tedious — but, of course, that was the point ... It’s not possible to read The Unwanted without hearing its echoes today.
Dobbs weaves the tales of their declining fortunes with a carefully researched account of American attitudes and policies toward Europe’s Jewish refugees ... What’s most chilling about Dobbs’s book is how his account of the early years of World War II echoes our politics today ... When current policies and opinions so closely resemble those held during Hitler’s early days, one wonders, too, if the moral clarity of 'never again' may have been fleeting. In raising those questions, Dobbs’s book provides a glimpse of how we may be judged by future generations.
Mr. Dobbs affectingly braids three separate narratives into one ... devastating ... Mr. Dobbs... chronicles in meticulous, suspenseful detail the desperate perseverance of one Kippenheim family after another to find an escape from Nazi Europe. These stories—recovered and reconstructed through letters, memoirs, family photographs, visa documents and oral histories—make up the book’s most wrenching sections.