An intimate memoir recounting a woman’s quest to solve the mystery of her Holocaust survivor father’s death.
As a child growing up in Vancouver in the 1950s and early ’60s, Diana Wichtel knew there was something different about her family. Her parents were far from forthcoming about the harrowing details of her Jewish father’s journey from Poland to Canada during the Second World War, often leaving young Diana with more questions than answers.
She was told that during the War, Benjamin Wichtel and several members of his family were herded onto a train headed for the Treblinka extermination camp. Along the way, Benjamin seized the opportunity to jump off the train, leaving his loved ones behind. Evading the Nazis for the remainder of the War, Benjamin made his way to Canada and new life with a family of his own. But the past haunted him, and the pain of what he had gone through infiltrated his home life. When Diana was thirteen, her mother took her three children back to her native New Zealand, with the plan that Benjamin would follow them. However, the family never saw him again.
After decades of unanswered questions, Diana (now a journalist), set out on her own to uncover what happened to her father. The search became an obsession as she uncovered information about his Warsaw family and their fate at the hands of the Nazis, scoured archives for clues to her father’s disappearance, and visited the places he lived. This unforgettable memoir is a reflection on the meaning of family, the trauma of loss, and the insistence of memory.
Diana Wichtel is an award-winning journalist and a feature writer and television critic at current affairs magazine the New Zealand Listener. She holds a master of arts degree from the University of Auckland and is the recipient of a 2016 Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship. Her memoir, Driving in Treblinka, was a national bestseller in New Zealand and in 2018 won two New Zealand Book Awards: the Royal Society Te Aparangi Award for General Non-fiction and the E.H. McCormick Best First Book Award for General Non-Fiction. She lives in Auckland.
Marketing + Promo Deliverables
BIO037000 BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Jewish
BIO026000 BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs
HIS043000 HISTORY / Holocaust
BISAC Regional Themes
220.127.116.11.0.0.0 North America
18.104.22.168.2.0.0 British Columbia
22.214.171.124.0.0.0 New Zealand
THEMA Subject Codes
NHTZ1, NHWR7, JWXK, 5PGJ, DNXP, DNXR, WQY, JBFB, JBFH, 1DTP, 1DTP-PL-MA, 1KBC-CA-BFD, 1KBC-CA-QMM, 1KBC-CA-OMC, 1MBN, 1KBB-US-NAKC
"The toughest task of any book, whatever the form, is to make a sentence so good that you just have to read the next one, and the next one, and then wish it could just about go on forever. So it is with Driving to Treblinka. From the first page, Diana Wichtel’s memoir draws you into a fascinating ancestry: the story of a girl growing up in Canada, her mum a kiwi, her dad a Polish Jew, a man who leapt in desperation from a concentration-camp-bound train, a moment around which everything in this book orbits. Wichtel’s curiosity, alternately upsetting and uplifting, turns invisibly into a kind of mission. At its heart this is a family story, but one which cannot but shine a light on the vestiges of anti-Semitism that linger in Europe today. It is not just a beautifully written book, but an important book, too."—jury, ROYAL SOCIETY TE APĀRANGI AWARD FOR GENERAL NON-FICTION, Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, 2018
"Powerful, poignant, and not infrequently profound, Driving to Treblinka is an outrageously assured example of a first book. Diana Wichtel’s story goes way beyond the usual family memoir. In search of her father’s history Wichtel travels by memory and aeroplane and time to Poland, to the Jewish ghetto and a miraculous escape from execution at the Nazi death camp in Treblinka to a new life in Canada – and to another heart-wrenching, years-long unexplained family fissure. As uplifting as it is upsetting, Driving to Treblinka delivers an engrossing account of a life, and the indelible legacy of the Holocaust through generations."—jury, E.H. MCCORMICK BEST FIRST BOOK AWARD FOR GENERAL NON-FICTION, Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, 2018
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