One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World
By Michael Frank
(227 pages, memoir/history, 2022)
In Feb. 2015, Michael Frank met nonagenarian Stella Levi at a talk in New York City. Stella was born on the island of Rhodes into a Judeo-Spanish community that had existed since the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century. That community was erased in 1944 when the Nazis marched the entire population down to the port, onto a boat and eventually to the concentration camps.
There are really three stories entwined here. First, the story of the friendship between Michael Frank and Stella Levi, as they build the trust that enables Stella to share her story. Second, the story of World War II from a very different vantage: an island in the Aegean, successively claimed by the Ottoman Empire, Italy, Germany and now a part of Greece. Third, of course, is Stella’s own life, spanning the pre-war world to the present day.
Unwilling to be defined by the worst parts of her life, Stella Levy had only rarely spoken of her time in the camps. Her deepest wish was to share the life of the Jewish quarter on Rhode, its unique language and customs that endured for centuries, but no more. Having come to trust Michael Frank, however, she shared all of her story. It’s worth reading and was different from the many other World War II memoirs and novels I’ve read.
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