The Lost Café Schindler
Kurt Schindler was an impossible man. His daughter Meriel spent her adult life trying to keep him at bay. Kurt had made extravagant claims about their family history. Were they really related to Franz Kafka and Oscar Schindler, of Schindler’s List fame? Or Hitler’s Jewish doctor – Dr Bloch? What really happened on Kristallnacht, the night that Nazis beat Kurt’s father half to death and ransacked the family home?
When Kurt died in 2017, Meriel felt compelled to resolve her mixed feelings about him, and to solve the mysteries he had left behind.
Starting with photos and papers found in Kurt’s isolated cottage, Meriel embarked on a journey of discovery taking her to Austria, Italy and the USA. She reconnected family members scattered by feuding and war. She pieced together an extraordinary story taking in two centuries, two world wars and a family business: the famous Café Schindler. Launched in 1922 as an antidote to the horrors of the First World War, this grand café became the whirling social centre of Innsbruck. And then the Nazis arrived.
Through the story of the Café Schindler and the threads that spool out from it, this moving book weaves together memoir, family history and an untold story of the Jews of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It explores the restorative power of writing, and offers readers a profound reflection on memory, truth, trauma and the importance of cake.
About the Author
Meriel Schindler spent the first fifteen years of her life growing up in central London before suddenly being moved to a convent school in provincial Austria. Five years later she moved back to the UK to study French and German at university and is now an employment lawyer, partner and head of a team at Withers LLP, a law firm. Meriel is also a trustee of Arvon, the writing charity, is married to husband Jeremy and has three grown-up children.
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