July 31, 2022

PLUNDER, A MEMOIR OF FAMILY PROPERTY AND NAZI TREASURE, by Menachim Kaiser

Publication Date: March 16, 2021

Print Length: 288 pages

A New York Times Top Book of the Year

Best Read of 2021 by the Christian Science Monitor
Best True Crime Book of 2021 by Lithub

SYNOPSIS

Menachem Kaiser never knew his paternal grandfather, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust. Yet when he discovered his grandfather worked for thirty years to reclaim an apartment building in Sosnowiec, Poland, Kaiser resolved to take on the case. After he arrived at his grandfather’s hometown, Kaiser discovered that a distant relative with the Kaiser family name was revered by Nazi treasure hunters because of the diary he kept as a slave laborer at a Nazi underground complex. As he explores issues related to reclamation and inheritance, Kaiser also examines the relationship between truth and myth and questions his own connection to his family history.

REVIEWS AND AUTHOR INFORMATION

Garner, Dwight, “’Plunder,’ a Gripping Reflection on What the Nazis Took and What It Would Mean To Take It Back.” The New York Times, March 8, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/08/books/review-plunder-memoir-family-property-nazi-treasure-menachem-kaiser.html

Nagel, Na’amit Sturm, “Unwrapping Bubby’s Sofa: On Menachem Kaiser’s “Plunder.”” Los Angeles Review of Books, April 25, 2021. https://www.lareviewofbooks.org/article/unwrapping-bubbys-sofa-on-menachem-kaisers-plunder/

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Throughout his account, Kaiser details the narrative story-telling choices he has made. Why did Kaiser choose to tell his family’s history as a non-fiction account? Would this story have been more powerful if it was fictionalized?

  • When Kaiser arrived at the Polish town where his grandfather lived and identified the building that he believed his grandfather previously owned, what remnants of the past had survived over the years?

  • Kaiser discovers that one of his ancestors was revered by Nazi treasure hunters. How does Kaiser’s efforts to recover his family’s history compare to those who remain committed to preserving Nazi memorabilia and searching for Nazi treasure?

  • At the end of Kaiser’s quest to recover his grandfather property, what conclusions does he reach about who owns the building? Despite the injustice associated with the building being appropriated, what difficulties did Kaiser face when he tried to reclaim his grandfather’s property?

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