Although the period leading up to the Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews has been well recorded, few sources convey the incremental effect of specific decrees aimed to dehumanize Jews caught in Hitler's net. To illustrate how these decrees transformed their everyday lives, Edith Kurzweil has translated and edited a collection of letters written by and exchanged between her grandmother, Malvine Fischer, and mother, Mimi Weisz. These letters convey with vivid immediacy the fears, premonitions, ghettoization, and escape attempts common among Viennese and German Jews in the years preceding the implementation of the "Final Solution."
In the first section of the volume, Kurzweil establishes the personal and political contexts of the letters (written between April 6, 1940 and December 1941, when Malvine Fischer and her family were deported) and links them to the then emerging "Jewish laws." The second section contains the letters themselves and documents the throttling grip in which the authorities held every Viennese Jew who had not managed to escape. The third section consists of translations of official summaries of the relevant laws, ordinances, and edicts—many of them marked "secret"—which inexorably determined that Kurzweil's family become part of the "final solution."