In Bruce Judisch’s Katia, the book that was published before this one, Madeline McAllister, a young American studying in Germany, discovered that her grandmother’s twin daughters were separated from their parents when the mother and father were arrested by Nazis during World War II.
The father died in the concentration camps, but the twins’ mother, Madeline’s grandmother, survived and later married a Canadian and immigrated to Canada. In For Maria, Madeline is back in the U.S. and married to Brendon Sommers. She continues her search for the twins. What happened to them after they were separated from their parents? Her grandmother is in her early nineties and ill. Madeline hopes to find her daughters—Madeline’s aunts—and reunite them with their mother before the mother dies.
The story is told by the different participants in the past and the present as Madeline traces the twins’ trail. A neighbor couple, Gustaw and Rosa Dudek, rescued the twins, then had to escape from the Nazis. What happened to them and the twins?
The centerpiece in this story is one of the heartrending events of the war, the smuggling out of Germany of Jewish children before the Gestapo could find them. Over a million children perished in the concentration camps, but thousands of children escaped and found refuge in America and other countries.
For Maria is the story of two children in this time of madness and the heroic woman who shepherded them across Europe. It’s also the story of estrangement and of a final chance to reconcile.
Ann Gaylia O'Barr, author of Singing in Babylon, Searching for Home, Quiet Deception, Distant Thunder and A Sense of Mission (all OakTara), was a Foreign Service Officer in the United States Department of State from 1990 to 2004. Assignments included tours in U.S. embassies and consulates in Saudi Arabia (Jeddah and Dhahran), Algeria, Canada, Tunisia, and Washington, D.C. (Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and Bureau of Intelligence and Research)