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The Unwanted

America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught in Between
Narrated by: Mark Deakins
Length: 11 hrs and 8 mins
5 out of 5 stars (19 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a riveting story of Jewish families seeking to escape Nazi Germany

"What's most chilling about Dobbs's book is how his account of the early years of World War II echoes our politics today. Xenophobia, isolationism, a fear of destructive infiltrators and an aversion to more war all conspired to keep refugee quotas low, when they were filled at all.... Dobbs's book provides a glimpse of how we may be judged by future generations." (Anna Altman, The New York Times Book Review

In 1938, on the eve of World War II, the American journalist Dorothy Thompson wrote that "a piece of paper with a stamp on it" was "the difference between life and death." The Unwanted is the intimate account of a small village on the edge of the Black Forest whose Jewish families desperately pursued American visas to flee the Nazis. Battling formidable bureaucratic obstacles, some make it to the United States while others are unable to obtain the necessary documents. Some are murdered in Auschwitz, their applications for American visas still "pending." 

Drawing on previously unpublished letters, diaries, interviews, and visa records, Michael Dobbs provides an illuminating account of America's response to the refugee crisis of the 1930s and 1940s. He describes the deportation of German Jews to France in October 1940, along with their continuing quest for American visas. And he re-creates the heated debates among US officials over whether or not to admit refugees amid growing concerns about "fifth columnists", at a time when the American public was deeply isolationist, xenophobic, and antisemitic. 

A Holocaust story that is both German and American, The Unwanted vividly captures the experiences of a small community struggling to survive amid tumultuous world events. 

©2019 Michael Dobbs (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

”A captivating, remarkably well-documented book that tells the little-known story of German Jews deported by the Nazis to unoccupied France in October 1940. Shuttled from one terrible camp to another, they desperately sought American visas to avoid an even more awful fate, deportation to the East. The author keeps the reader breathless as he relates, with great precision, the history of U.S. diplomacy toward the Jews of the Third Reich. I know this subject intimately, yet I read this book in one sitting, without skipping a line. A great achievement!” (Serge Klarsfeld, historian and Nazi hunter)

"Too often when we speak of atrocities, mass murder, crimes against humanity, or genocide we think in terms of hundreds of thousands, if not millions. The Unwanted reminds us that the victims of each atrocity are individuals with their own story and their own particular tragedy. Michael Dobbs has written a compelling history of the Jewish community of one town. We come to know these individuals in a deeply personal way. He brings us into their lives and we experience their desperate struggle to survive at a time when they were abandoned by the world." (Deborah E. Lipstadt, PhD, author of Antisemitism Here and Now

"Michael Dobbs has written a moving and powerful book that delves into detailed historical records of a single German town to offer a vivid portrait of the human costs of Nazi antisemitism and the tragic consequences of an unresponsive refugee policy. A compelling read for anyone concerned about the effects of refugee policy in the face of contemporary episodes of persecution and ethnic violence." (Michael Chertoff, US secretary for Homeland Security, 2005-2009) 

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A valuable contribution to Holocaust literature

Michael Dobbs’ book gives us a personal look at the individual lives of Jews and their persecution in the German village of Kippenheim during the 1930s-40s, set against American isolationist and anti-immigrant sentiment and the policies that blocked many from finding refuge in the US. Compellingly written, emotionally powerful - requires the reader to fully consider what America’s role was in responding to the Holocaust.

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Must read

This book is well researched and well written. The performance is engaging, it’s hard to stop listening even for a few days. Everyone should read it regardless of their prior knowledge of this subject because it reminds us of our priorities regarding immigration in today’s day and age with our restrictive government and politics.