The distinguished Croatian journalist and publisher Slavko Goldstein says, “Writing this book about my family, I have tried not to separate what happened to us from the fates of many other people and of an entire country.” 1941: The Year That Keeps Returning is Goldstein’s astonishing historical memoir of that fateful year—when the Ustasha, the pro-fascist nationalists, were brought to power in Croatia by the Nazi occupiers of Yugoslavia. On April 10, when the German troops marched into Zagreb, the Croatian capital, they were greeted as liberators by the Croats. Three days later, Ante Pavelic, the future leader of the Independent State of Croatia, returned from exile in Italy and Goldstein’s father, the proprietor of a leftist bookstore in Karlovac—a beautiful old city fifty miles from the capital—was arrested along with other local Serbs, communists, and Yugoslav sympathizers. Goldstein was only thirteen years old, and he would never see his father again.
More than fifty years later, Goldstein seeks to piece together the facts of his father’s last days. The moving narrative threads stories of family, friends, and other ordinary people who lived through those dark times together with personal memories and an impressive depth of carefully researched historic details. The other central figure in Goldstein’s heartrending tale is his mother—a strong, resourceful woman who understands how to act decisively in a time of terror in order to keep her family alive.
From 1941 through 1945 some 32,000 Jews, 40,000 Gypsies, and 350,000 Serbs were slaughtered in Croatia. It is a period in history that is often forgotten, purged, or erased from the history books, which makes Goldstein’s vivid, carefully balanced account so important for us today—for the same atrocities returned to Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s. And yet Goldstein’s story isn’t confined by geographical boundaries as it speaks to the dangers and madness of ethnic hatred all over the world and the urgent need for mutual understanding.
A chilling personal account of the deep-seated terror and ethnic violence underpinning the puppet state of Croatia during World War II… A stunning work that looks frankly at the ‘roots of evil.”
In this ambitious mix of history and memoir, Goldstein, a Croatian writer, looks back at WWII and its effects on his life, family, and neighbors….Goldstein covers a lot of territory as he explores the vicious ethnic warfare between Serbs and Croats from 1941 onward and looks at how the Nazi pogrom further affected his country’s Jewish community….It’s a poignant, uncompromising recollection, told in a meandering but easy-to-follow manner…. Goldstein’s book, reconstructed through personal experience as well as numerous interviews and historical documents provides invaluable insight into Croatia during WWII.
I came across this remarkable book, which has not yet been translated into English, while writing recently about the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It deserves attention because it explains, perhaps better than any book I know of, how different ethnic groups, who lived side by side in peace for centuries, were made to turn against one another and become each other’s executioners in that unhappy country.
Here at last is a memoir whose author readily admits that his childhood recollections are not necessarily crystal clear, but who has made up for the inevitable obscurities with assiduous research and thorough interviews so as to rank it among the greatest writings on the witches’ cauldron that was Hitler’s Europe in 1941. The focus is on Croatia where, under the command of the satanic Ustasha fascists, neighbors denounced, robbed, and killed neighbors, but Slavko Goldstein’s 1941 could be applied to every country where war and foreign occupation turned hitherto harmless people into bandits.
—István Deák, Seth Low Professor Emeritus of History, Columbia University
This perfectly successful combination of childhood memoir and historical analysis has few peers in European writing about the Second World War. All who read it will find their knowledge of the continent extended by Goldsteins’s erudite depiction of Yugoslavia, and their consciences nourished by his humane understanding of the experience of atrocity.
—Timothy Snyder, Bird White Housum Professor of History at Yale University
Goldstein’s book is at once autobiography and family chronicle, a testimonial and a historical record, a work of literature. Simply, lucidly, it recounts the private life of a family and the public life of a city, the reign of the Independent State of Croatia and World War II, the suffering and the camps, and the postwar tragedies that mirror the past.
Based on personal memories and historical research, Goldstein has spun—as if from coils of yarn of good and evil—a singular history of twentieth-century tragedies.
—Novi List (Croatia)
A monumental work.
—Slobodna Dalmacija (Croatia)