Translated from the original German by Anne Posten
Summoned from Vienna to Frankfurt to testify at the Auschwitz trials, Heiner meets Lena, who is working at the court as a translator. As the trial progresses, Heiner bears witness to his experiences of being deported to Auschwitz as a young man. He and Lena begin a cautious love affair, but both are unsure whether their love can be strong enough to cope with his trauma. Heiner knows that if they are going to stay together Lena will have to accept the shadow of Auschwitz that marks him. When she does, they start to build a new life around the debris of his past.
In clear, unobtrusive prose inspired by interviews Monika Held did with Auschwitz survivors, This Place Holds No Fear paints an emotive picture of life and love governed by trauma. Heiner’s suffering is omnipresent, and Lena’s struggle to hold her own in an imbalanced relationship dominated by his past is deeply moving. His stories are horrific and disturbing, but he cannot survive without them. Slowly, as the years pass, they’re able to a find freedom and a sense of peace they have not known before.
About the Author
Monika Held was born and grew up in postwar Hamburg. As a freelance journalist, her career has taken her all over the world. She has been awarded many prizes for her journalism and her political commitment, including Solidarnosc’s Medal Wdzięczności, the Elisabet Selbert Prize and the German Social Prize. She lives in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
In her novel This Place Holds No Fear, Monika Held tells the true story of an Auschwitz survivor and the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials. In unobtrusive language she paints a picture of love in the times after Auschwitz and a couple’s struggle to cope with the trauma. During a visit to Auschwitz in the 80’s, the couple begins to understand that those who haven’t been in Auschwitz will never be able to understand the horror of the place. The novel shows how the lives of the survivors and the people around them are influenced by the past in the concentration camps.