Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle

The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle:  
A Memoir Uniquely Set in a Vanished Sudetenland  
by Frank Koerner
(iUniverse / 0-595-33344-3 / March 2005 / 196 pages / $16.95)
I was very pleasantly surprised to find another iU book that shares certain rare qualities with my first book, Plastic Ozone Daydream. Both books are compilations of previously published articles and both have a number of b&w photos scattered throughout the text! These are the only two iUniverse books I have seen that include photos.

Missing Peace
cannot be discussed without mentioning Schindler's List, since it is the work most familiar to readers seeking knowledge of a similar subject. Although everyone knows about The Holocaust, few are aware that over three million ethnic Germans were thrown out of their homeland when the nation of Czechoslovakia was formed after World War II. These displaced people once lived in the area then called Moravia. Most were deported to Germany and other areas. The author's parents left Moravia for a new life in the U.S. Frank Koerner and his two older sisters grew up in New Jersey in the '40's and '50's with all the attendant influences of American life. Mr. Koerner's first language is English. He also speaks German and a very little Czech. He long ago envisioned himself as a future pro baseball player, but as he matured, he became increasingly fascinated with the tragic history of his parents in the Moravia they so grudgingly left behind. They had had no choice except to see their homeland disappear. Frank takes the few ancient b&w photos he owns of his parents and their lives in the old country, and goes with his wife to Sudetenland, another name for the area in which his parents lived, to discover as many details of his family history as he can in a short vacation period.

Although not particularly large, this is a very complete book. Frank Koerner's story is told in the form of articles previously published in the U.S., Canada, and Germany. Many reproductions of his original family photographs are included, as well as additional photos Frank took on his vacation to Sudetenland/Moravia/Czechoslovakia. Although the core of the story represents a bleak and depressing issue, Mr. Koerner tells the tale in a delightfully personal and pleasant manner. His eccentric use of humor and the English language keeps the subject matter of his 1992 European vacation bouncing along. Missing Peace is part autobiography, part history, and part genealogy, and all three components blend smoothly together. The seventeen separate sources in which the stories were originally published are listed in the back, along with a bibliography. The cover is nicely designed, and the aptly credited painting on the cover is significant to the story line. The author's research and dedication to his subject come shining through!

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