Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Showcase: And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain by Elisabeth Åsbrink

Today dear readers I bring you another fabulous release by my favorite indie, Other Press. And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain, another WWII tale about families torn apart by war. I hope once you read all about it here you'll rush out to get your own copy.

Publisher: Other Press

Release Date: 1-21-2020




Winner of the August Prize, the story of the complicated long-distance relationship between a Jewish child and his forlorn Viennese parents after he was sent to Sweden in 1939, and the unexpected friendship the boy developed with the future founder of IKEA, a Nazi activist.

Otto Ullmann, a Jewish boy, was sent from Austria to Sweden right before the outbreak of World War II. Despite the huge Swedish resistance to Jewish refugees, thirteen-year-old Otto was granted permission to enter the country—all in accordance with the Swedish archbishop’s secret plan to save Jews on condition that they convert to Christianity. Otto found work at the Kamprad family’s farm in the province of Småland and there became close friends with Ingvar Kamprad, who would grow up to be the founder of IKEA. At the same time, however, Ingvar was actively engaged in Nazi organizations and a great supporter of the fascist Per Engdahl. Meanwhile, Otto’s parents remained trapped in Vienna, and the last letters he received were sent from Theresienstadt.

With thorough research, including personal files initiated by the predecessor to today’s Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) and more than 500 letters, Elisabeth Åsbrink illustrates how Swedish society was infused with anti-Semitism, and how families are shattered by war and asylum politics.

Read an excerpt:

Vienna February 5, 1939
My dear boy. You can’t imagine how happy we were yesterday when your first letter from Sweden arrived. […]
Ever since the train left and we parted we’ve been thinking of you without pause. In the morning we said: Now he’s in Berlin and later in the afternoon we pictured you taking the ferry, seeing the ocean for the first time and watching the seagulls that were probably flying around the ship. And in the evening we went to bed missing you—but also feeling assured—because now you’d arrived in Sweden, that beautiful country with the sympathetic and, above all, good people, and because now you’re being given a better future than what you would’ve had here. […]
You are a sensible and clever boy, I’ve always known that, and your way of relating to those last heavy hours of parting more than convinces me that we’ve made the right choice. I’m sure that you, who knows how to behave, will come to follow our will and always act in a decent and correct manner. Then everything will be fine out in the big world, too, even though you don’t have your father’s support or your mother’s help. But we will always be with you in thought, and then distance is meaningless, and our wishes are with you in all that you do.
[…] A thousand greetings and kisses / your dad
Pepi was full of confidence. Someone had to be, and his usual optimistic disposition was to his benefit, now that he and Elise had been separated from their only child.
Until the day he’d been fired because of the race laws, Pepi had gone to work every day at the Wiener Tagon Canisiusgasse 8. Every day for seventeen years, he’d take his seat and write using his typewriter after the morning editorial meeting. Why stop now? With Otto in Sweden, the decision was made. He would write a letter a day.


“Engrossing…compelling…Top-notch microcosmic World War II history and an excellent illustration of the immense power of the written word.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Åsbrink’s historic timeline of Christianity’s long scourge-and-purge tactics against Jews is chilling, as are the parallels readers will note to today’s immigration discussions…[a] must-read.” —Booklist

“And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain is a gripping saga of love, friendship, betrayal, and, above all, courage—the courage of parents trapped in the Nazi inferno who yet never waver in their devotion to their son. This is one of the most moving books I have ever read about that dark period in history.” —Francine Klagsbrun, author of Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel

“One of the most important books of the fall…It must be read not only as history but as living history.” — Aftonbladet

“Both a harrowing chronicle and an outrage transformed into breathtakingly beautiful prose…Indispensable reading.” —Upsala Nya Tidning

“An important and urgent book…on a theme with links to our time.” —Svenska Dagbladet

“A powerfully moving story.” —Goteborgs-Posten

Elizabeth's other works

About the author:
Elisabeth Åsbrink is a nonfiction writer and journalist. She has worked for Swedish National Television for fifteen years as a reporter and editor for news shows and cultural programs, often as an investigative journalist. Her first book, Och i Wienerwald står träden kvar [And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain], received worldwide attention for revealing new information about IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad’s ties to Nazism. It won several awards, including the August Prize for Best Swedish Non-Fiction Book of the Year (2011). Åsbrink made her debut as a playwright with RÄLS [TRACKS], based on the minutes taken at a meeting convened by Hermann Göring in 1938, and has since written four plays.


  1. Ooo I bet this one will be really good!

  2. Okay, that got my attention. I'm curious about Otto's story.

  3. I never realised Sweden was anti Jewish during WW2. Now I want to know how Otto fared there.

  4. This is a book I'm interested in reading! My attention is piqued by a jewish boy and future Nazi activist developing a friendship! Thanks for sharing Debbie!

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape

    1. I know Lindy me too, actually everything about the time period piques my interest!

  5. They certainly never speak of it, cos I have never heart they were that anti

    1. there's a lot we don't know and maybe never will know about what went on then Blodeuedd