Sunrise Shows Late
This love story immerses the reader in a less well-known aspect of the Holocaust: the bleak life that survivors experienced in Displaced Persons camps immediately after World War II. Manya Gerson was lucky enough to escape the concentration camps with false identity papers. Because her parents were not practicing Jews, she feels out of place in the Landsberg DP camp. Still, her fellow inmates are kind to her. They teach her that issued chocolate and cigarettes are too precious to consume, and must be saved to use for barter. And one must be quick to get anything useful when a new shipment of donated clothing arrives, most of which is moldy from sitting in a damp warehouse too long.
Manya is attracted to Bolek Holzer, a camp visa processor who takes on dangerous missions for the Zionists on the side. But because Manya is tired of danger and being afraid all the time, she feels they have no future together. The scientist Emmanuel Kozak offers her a tempting quiet life, teaching in Paris. When Bolek is injured on a gunrunning job and has to be smuggled out of Germany, she must choose a future for herself and her unborn child.
The author lived in a DP camp as a small child, and with that first-hand knowledge creates a believable world in this novel. The grayness of postwar life, the many ironies facing survivors (such as the victorious nations continuing to dispute over keeping the displaced Jews out of their own countries), and small details like the Europeans’ distaste for strange American mess hall food are vividly rendered. The cheerless setting makes the denouement’s spark of hope all the more poignant.