A hidden past

When Time Stopped is a memoir by Ariana Neumann of her father and his family during WW2 and the story of her search to find out the truth about the past. Ariana grew up in Venezuela with her father who was very wealthy but also emotionally closed and secretive – she was in her late teens before she discovered that her father was a Jew. When she was a child she found, in her father’s possessions, an identity document showing her father’s face and another name but he refused to answer her questions about this. When he died he left her a box of documents and information which tell the story of his war and lead her to previously unknown family members and friends who can fill out the details for her. The story they reveal is an amazing one.

Hans Neumann was born and brought up in Prague with his parents and siblings. His father owned a paint factory and Hans trained as a chemist. When the war came, and with it the Nazis, the family lost the factory, their homes and their wealth. The parents were taken to a camp where they worked to preserve their lives and the sons of the family were continually under threat of detention – they used every contact and influence they had to avoid this fate while other relatives failed. Eventually Hans realised that he could not escape much longer and he went into hiding which is not easily sustainable for any length of time in an occupied country. Eventually he took on a new identity using forged papers and worked as a chemist, eventually being employed in Berlin and living under the noses of the Nazis.

This book tells an astounding story. The author traces family members and reveals the huge number of these who are killed by the Nazi regime. She makes it clear what those who were not murdered had to do in order to survive and how it changed them as people. She then outlines what happened to them after the war and how they adjusted to peace.

I found the way that this story was told completely engaged me. Yet again I was astounded by the bravery of so many who suffered under the Nazi regime and was saddened and horrified by the brutality of others. This is an excellent memoir and a fascinating story.

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