Plunder A memoir of family property and Nazi treasure

Menachem Kaiser, 1985-

Book - 2021

"From a gifted young writer, the story of his quest to reclaim his family's apartment building in Poland--and of the astonishing entanglement with Nazi treasure hunters that follows"--

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Subjects
Published
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt [2021]
Language
English
Physical Description
viii, 277 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 273-277).
ISBN
9781328508034
132850803X
Main Author
Menachem Kaiser, 1985- (author)
  • Małachowskiiego
  • Riese
  • Małachowskiiego
  • Forever book
  • Epilogue.
Review by Booklist Reviews

When you go adventuring, you never know what you may find. Fulbright fellow Kaiser invites the reader to share his journey to reclaim family property lost during the Holocaust. The twists and turns are many and complex, primarily involving dives into Jewish culture and history, treasure hunters, a Jewish survivor's memoir/diary, and the bureaucratic nightmare of the Polish legal system. Family is what holds all of these threads together, and what makes Kaiser's account so engaging is the skill with which he weaves everything together in multiple dimensions; even the title has many meanings. Consequently, this is much more than a legal case to assert ownership of an apartment building or a grandson continuing his grandfather's quest. Tragedy, regret, loss, the desperate struggle for survival, and despair saturate this Holocaust story, but Kaiser renders them carefully, so as not to overwhelm his findings about myth and meaning in memory. This exceptional book will deeply engage readers interested in Jewish, Polish, and WWII history, especially the Holocaust and its aftermath, including the redemptive hunt for family treasures stolen by the Nazis. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

When you go adventuring, you never know what you may find. Fulbright fellow Kaiser invites the reader to share his journey to reclaim family property lost during the Holocaust. The twists and turns are many and complex, primarily involving dives into Jewish culture and history, treasure hunters, a Jewish survivor's memoir/diary, and the bureaucratic nightmare of the Polish legal system. Family is what holds all of these threads together, and what makes Kaiser's account so engaging is the skill with which he weaves everything together in multiple dimensions; even the title has many meanings. Consequently, this is much more than a legal case to assert ownership of an apartment building or a grandson continuing his grandfather's quest. Tragedy, regret, loss, the desperate struggle for survival, and despair saturate this Holocaust story, but Kaiser renders them carefully, so as not to overwhelm his findings about myth and meaning in memory. This exceptional book will deeply engage readers interested in Jewish, Polish, and WWII history, especially the Holocaust and its aftermath, including the redemptive hunt for family treasures stolen by the Nazis. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In this debut, journalist Kaiser recounts undertaking the recovery of property lost to his family in the Holocaust, and reflects on what he hoped to find. His grandfather, who died before Kaiser was born, survived the Holocaust and resettled in Toronto. However, he was unable to reclaim ownership of an apartment building in Poland, leading Kaiser to take up the claim during a research fellowship in the country in 2010. In the process, he experiences the vagaries of the Polish legal system and the fraught history of Poles and Jews. His narrative describes his common interactions with residents of the town the building is in, as well as the uncommon ones with treasure hunters searching for a mythical train that is rumored to hold hundreds of pounds of gold hidden by Nazis in the nearby mountains. The treasure hunters believe Kaiser is the grandson of a man (with the same last name) who wrote about his slave laborers digging tunnels for the Nazis in these mountains. This coincidence leads him to another branch of living relatives. Occasional family photographs are an added bonus. VERDICT This thoughtful and thought-provoking memoir of family secrets and family lore, like Daniel Mendelsohn's The Lost, will appeal to readers of family histories.—Laurie Unger Skinner, Highland Park P.L., IL Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Kaiser debuts with a spellbinding account of his quest to reclaim an apartment building that was once owned by his grandfather but taken from him by the Nazis. Kaiser is frank about the context of his reclamation. For starters, he'd never met his grandfather. But after a visit to Sosnowiec, Poland, in 2015, Kaiser took it upon himself to repossess the property his family lost during the Holocaust. Hiring a lawyer (called "The Killer") to represent him, Kaiser set out on a twisty path as shocking information on his lineage came to light—namely, that his grandfather's cousin, Abraham Kajzer, wrote a secret memoir while working as a slave laborer on the Nazi's mysterious Riese project. This revelation caught the attention of a group of eccentric Silesian treasure hunters who believed Kaiser was Abraham's own grandson, suddenly turning him into a pseudo-celebrity. Meanwhile, the complicated legacy of WWII haunts Kaiser: the people who lived in his grandfather's building "benefited from the wholesale murder of my family," he writes. ("Let's embrace the stereotypes, I'll be the Jew coming back for his property and you be the fearful Pole.") Yet at the same time, he wonders if, by upending people's lives with his claim, he's complicit in the problem, too. Superbly written, this page-turner reads like a gripping adventure novel. Agent: Janet Silver, Aevitas Creative Management. (Mar.) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A young writer documents the story of his effort to reclaim his Holocaust-survivor grandfather’s family apartment building in Poland, detailing his grandfather’s firsthand experiences as a slave laborer and his own confrontations with Nazi treasure hunters. 30,000 first printing. Illustrations. Maps.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A New York Times Critics’ Best Nonfiction Book of 2021 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for BiographyFrom a gifted young writer, the story of his quest to reclaim his family’s apartment building in Poland—and of the astonishing entanglement with Nazi treasure hunters that follows  Menachem Kaiser’s brilliantly told story, woven from improbable events and profound revelations, is set in motion when the author takes up his Holocaust-survivor grandfather’s former battle to reclaim the family’s apartment building in Sosnowiec, Poland. Soon, he is on a circuitous path to encounters with the long-time residents of the building, and with a Polish lawyer known as “The Killer.”  A surprise discovery—that his grandfather’s cousin not only survived the war, but wrote a secret memoir while a slave laborer in a vast, secret Nazi tunnel complex—leads to Kaiser being adopted as a virtual celebrity by a band of Silesian treasure seekers who revere the memoir as the indispensable guidebook to Nazi plunder. Propelled by rich original research, Kaiser immerses readers in profound questions that reach far beyond his personal quest. What does it mean to seize your own legacy? Can reclaimed property repair rifts among the living? Plunder is both a deeply immersive adventure story and an irreverent, daring interrogation of inheritance—material, spiritual, familial, and emotional. 

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A New York Times Critics’ Best Nonfiction Book of 2021 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for BiographyFrom a gifted young writer, the story of his quest to reclaim his family’s apartment building in Poland—and of the astonishing entanglement with Nazi treasure hunters that follows  Menachem Kaiser’s brilliantly told story, woven from improbable events and profound revelations, is set in motion when the author takes up his Holocaust-survivor grandfather’s former battle to reclaim the family’s apartment building in Sosnowiec, Poland. Soon, he is on a circuitous path to encounters with the long-time residents of the building, and with a Polish lawyer known as “The Killer.”  A surprise discovery—that his grandfather’s cousin not only survived the war, but wrote a secret memoir while a slave laborer in a vast, secret Nazi tunnel complex—leads to Kaiser being adopted as a virtual celebrity by a band of Silesian treasure seekers who revere the memoir as the indispensable guidebook to Nazi plunder. Propelled by rich original research, Kaiser immerses readers in profound questions that reach far beyond his personal quest. What does it mean to seize your own legacy? Can reclaimed property repair rifts among the living? Plunder is both a deeply immersive adventure story and an irreverent, daring interrogation of inheritance—material, spiritual, familial, and emotional. 

Review by Publisher Summary 4

From a gifted young writer, the story of his quest to reclaim his family's apartment building in Poland'and of the astonishing entanglement with Nazi treasure hunters that follows Menachem Kaiser's brilliantly told story, woven from improbable events and profound revelations, is set in motion when the author takes up his Holocaust-survivor grandfather's former battle to reclaim the family's apartment building in Sosnowiec, Poland. Soon, he is on a circuitous path to encounters with the long-time residents of the building, and with a Polish lawyer known as 'the Killer.'  A surprise discovery'that his grandfather's cousin not only survived the war, but wrote a secret memoir while a slave laborer in a vast, secret Nazi tunnel complex'leads to Kaiser being adopted as a virtual celebrity by a band of Silesian treasure seekers who revere the memoir as the indispensable guidebook to Nazi plunder. Propelled by rich original research, Kaiser immerses readers in profound questions that reach far beyond his personal quest. What does it mean to seize your own legacy? Can reclaimed property repair rifts among the living? Plunder is both a deeply immersive adventure story and an irreverent, daring interrogation of inheritance'material, spiritual, familial, and emotional. 

Review by Publisher Summary 5

From a gifted young writer, the story of his quest to reclaim his family’s apartment building in Poland—and of the astonishing entanglement with Nazi treasure hunters that follows 

Review by Publisher Summary 6

From a gifted young writer, the story of his quest to reclaim his family's apartment building in Poland'and of the astonishing entanglement with Nazi treasure hunters that follows