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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Lost Roots: Family, Identity, and Abandoned Ancestry by Karl von Loewe explores the background of his father, Sigmund. Growing up in a German household immersed in cultural traditions, Sigmund's ancestral past remained vague until von Loewe's relentless inquiry. Uncovering surprising truths, von Loewe discovered that his father's roots were set in a Kashubian community in what is now northern Poland. In the aftermath of World War I, Sigmund and his brother sought refuge, opting to change their names to assimilate into a shifting Europe. The biography traces Sigmund's journey, from his service as a pilot to working as a jeweler in the United States. Von Loewe also provides insight into the European relatives who did not immigrate during World War II.
Lost Roots by Karl von Loewe is an incredible account that offers insights into his family history and bridges the gap between past and present, and who we are despite who we have been told we were, in a time before we lived. I was intrigued by the book because a family member of mine traced what they thought was a Scottish name, Fife, finding over a handful of generations where Fife was Feffer, which was Pfeiffer, and instead of Scottish Protestants they were Romanian Jews. What makes von Loewe's history singular is that this is not a story over generations...it is one generation and shows just how much was required to survive. Most interesting to me is the chapter on von Loewe's family in the “New Poland” and how surviving siblings, Anastazy, Klemens, Władysław, and Maria, fared in the Second Polish Republic. They embraced the shift and found opportunity, but also a devastating loss. This book is a testament to the impact of shifts on a very personal level. Well written, exhaustively researched, and a beautiful compilation of a family's lost collective history.