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Mischka's War: A Story of Survival from War-Torn Europe to New York

Mischka's War: A Story of Survival from War-Torn Europe to New York
Sheila Fitzpatrick

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ON a winter's day in 1943, 21-year-old Latvian Mischka Danos chanced on a terrible sight - a pit filled with the bodies of Jews killed by the occupying Germans. In order to escape conscription to the Waffen-SS - the authors of such atrocities - Mischka volunteered to go on a student exchange to Germany. He did not then know that he was part Jewish. Whilst in Germany, he narrowly escaped death in the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden. Surviving Hitler's Reich, he became a displaced person in occupied Germany, where in 1951 he earned a PhD at the exceptional Heidelberg Physics Institute. In the 1950s Mischka was sponsored as an immigrant to the US by a Jewish survivor whom his mother, Olga, had saved during Riga's worst period of Jewish arrests. As refugee experiences go, Mischka was among the lucky ones - but even luck leaves scars. The author Sheila Fitzpatrick, who met and married Mischka forty years after these events, turns her skills as a historian and wry eye as a memoirist to telling the remarkable story of Mischka's odyssey and survival.

Author Info

Sheila Fitzpatrick is Emerita Professor of History at the University of Chicago and Honorary Professor of History at the University of Sydney. One of the most acclaimed historians of twentieth-century Russia, she is the author of several books, including The Russian Revolution; Stalin's Peasants, Everyday Stalinism, Tear off the Masks! and A Spy in the Archive: A Memoir of Cold War Russia (I.B.Tauris, 2013).


‘In her latest book, renowned historian Sheila Fitzpatrick recounts the remarkable wartime odyssey of Michael Danos (1922-1999), known also at various times as Mikelis/Mischa/Mischka, the theoretical physicist to whom she was married until his death. Drawing on diaries and letters, she retraces Mischa’s journey from occupied Riga via a Displaced Persons camp to Heidelberg, where his career began to take off. Fitzpatrick does not claim that Mischka’s story was representative, indeed she thinks of it as ‘singular’. It’s an honest and sometimes unflinching account: we learn of his devotion to his mother, his fledgling scientific career (he regularly carried in his suitcase twenty volumes of the Zeitschrift für Physik), his love of sport and music, and his multiple liaisons. When he and his first wife reached the USA in 1951, he proclaimed ‘We made it’. In this labour of love, Fitzpatrick shows how they did, and why it matters.’ – Peter Gatrell,  Professor of Economic History, Manchester University and author of The Making of the Modern Refugee
'at once tender and forensic: a beguiling combination of scholarship and love' - Anna Goldsworthy, author of Piano Lessons
‘Two dramas are played out in Sheila Fitzpatrick's Misha's War: that of Misha, navigating the European catastrophe with an equanimity that often threatens to confound our understanding of it; and the author's own drama, as she tries to preserve the historian's objectivity and 'distance' from even the most terrible events, while uncovering the story of one man among the millions caught up in them - the man she met and fell in love with long after the war was over.  The result is an absorbing, unsettling, rare and memorable book.’ - Don Watson, author of The Bush

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781788310222
Publication Date: 29 Jun 2017
Number of Pages: 320
Height: 198
Width: 129
Illustrations: 25 black and white illustrations in an 8 page plate section

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