An Uncommon Friendship: From Opposite Sides of the Holocaust, by Bernat Rosner and Frederic C. Tubach, with Sally Patterson Tubach, is an extremely powerful, and poignant memoir, written in a concise manner, with clarity and sensitivity. The memoir (really two memoirs in one) parallels the lives of Rosner and Tubach, from their childhoods through their adulthoods, at which time their lives converge, and a friendship begins to form.
They became acquainted in 1983, through their wives, and from there we watch as a superficial relationship between two men turn into a lasting and deep friendship, with all the layers of emotion peeled away.
Rosner, was a Survivor of Auschwitz, and was a Hungarian Jew, sent there at twelve-years of age with his mother, father and brother. He was the only one to survive. Tubach was the son of a Nazi German Soldier during the same time period. An Uncommon Friendship is written in double memoir style, rotating back and forth, from Rosner to Tubach, during the turbulent and horrific events of the Holocaust, through their both emigrating to America.
They were on opposite sides of the spectrum, and we witness their riveting journeys. We watch them graduate from universities, become employed in fairly prestigious occupations, and finally see their lives converge, when they finally meet. Rosner’s journey through hell and back is told with extreme sensitivity by Tubach.
It was only when Rosner began telling his story in bits and pieces, and when Rosner and Tubach traveled to Rosner’s village of origin, that the intensity and horrors that he (Rosner) encountered began to ring out through his heart-wrenching verbalizations. The tortures, horrors, atrocities and events that he endured, he supressed, in order to emotionally survive. He left his emotions behind him when emigrating to America, as if they were annihilated (and, they actually were). He wanted a new life, and was given the chance through a family who adopted him. It was through his growing, and unlikely friendship with Tubach that he was able to reveal the ugliness of his survival, and the loss of his family members, and slowly his silence resounded.
“In summer 1983 I was invited to dinner at the home of Bernat Rosner, Auschwitz survivor and husband of my wife’s high school friend.”
Tubach’s story isn’t lessened or overshadowed by Rosner’s. Tubach had his own situations in his village, living with a dictator type father and a caring stepmother. He had a restlessness to achieve and make something of himself. Life wasn’t easy for him, even though he was on the extreme end of the continuum. He too, emigrated to start anew, sponsored by an uncle. Tubach doesn’t try to give reason to the actions of his family, and he doesn’t seek to explain or justify the situations of his life in Germany. He tells his story, in reflection and comparison to Rosner’s. Each man has a valid and sincere story to tell, each with descriptive images, neither one trying to outshine the other.
The book is a fascinating and beautifully written, filled with harrowing moments, genocide, nightmares of physical endurance, and the horrors war inflicts on both those who perish, and those who survive. The authors are excellenct in detailing scenarios with extreme, descriptive insight and intensity.
An Uncommon Friendship is a metaphor for friendship and trust. Trust is earned, and not a given, and both men learned the true meaning of trust within the sphere of their developing relationship and friendship. Through the testimonies of Rosner and Tubach, lives are reborn and friendships built through shared remembrances of childhoods from different sides of the spectrum. Parallel lives become intertwined and joined by the bridge of friendship, strength and courage. Their stories are a tribute to endurance, courage and life.
I personally own and have read this book.