“Cursed To Survive” by Rimma Rose
Cursed to Survive is a historical novel set in Germany at the beginning of Hitler’s Reich subsequently leading to World War II and the Holocaust. We witness the often-horrific events through the eyes of Maximilian Count von Bittenburg, a German nobleman and the gatekeeper to a dark and secret past.
The story begins when Rose Blackford Stern encounters the stunningly handsome Max at the grave of her late grandmother. Max is enigmatic and the subject of Rose’s obsession from the moment they meet. He offers Rose the opportunity to learn of her grandmother's past, but only if she is willing to accept the consequences that will come along with that knowledge. Knowledge that will flip everything Rose thought she knew about this world on its head.
Rose is a young, beautiful and successful New York City fashion consultant. She has everything, yet deep within her, she is unable to shake the emptiness that has consumed her since the death of her beloved grandmother, Aliza, three years prior.
“Every time I think of my grandmother and her rare and sad smile; her eyes filled with pain and darkness because of the times I knew nothing about, her graceful slender figure draped in tweed, her soft voice with a slight German accent, and her long fingers so masterfully touching the keys of the piano, I hurt, because I was never able to learn her story.”
Max first meets Aliza when she is a teenage girl in pre-World War II Germany. Max comes from one of the oldest noble families of Europe. The attraction between Maximillian and Aliza is instant and overpowering, albeit impossible - a German aristocrat could never be with a Jewish commoner. As Hitler’s Nazi movement gains momentum, their country is shattered and their deep mutual connection becomes deadly.
Max’s father, Count Frederick von Bittenburg, a high-ranking official in the Nazi Foreign Ministry, a personal friend of Hitler and Goring gets his son a position as the second-in-command at the labor camp. Max accepts his assignment with many reservations, resenting the cruelty and inhumanity of the Hitler’s government and its supporters.
“How could my nation do this? Hitler, Himmler, Hoss, and Heydrich were the monsters—that was clear and well established, but what about the other Germans? Those who pulled the triggers and actually physically carried out the plans? How could they do it? How could they be involved in such heartless and evil acts on such a massive scale? Where were our refinement and culture? Were we all, in our majority, a barbaric nation of blood-thirsty murderers? I felt nothing but embarrassment, disgust, and disappointment. Because of those people, I had to stand there, in the labor camp that had been created to torture people and work them to death, being ashamed for my country and nationality, for everything that I had been raised to be proud of and revere.”
Many tragic events happen between Max’s job assignment and the actual beginning of his duties, but when he finally arrives to Hanzert labor camp, he finds Aliza as a house servant there and subject to the desires and whims of a horrifically sadistic officer. He rescues her from the horrors of the camp and puts her on a journey to a new life in America at great cost to himself.
Nearly seventy years later Max’s unusual gifts have brought him to New York, to Aliza’s granddaughter Rose, and perhaps to another chance at love that lasts for more than one lifetime.