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Lost Roots: Family, Identity, and Abandoned Ancestry, by Karl von Loewe

How twentieth-century junk science and tribalism defined a family’s identity and falsified their origins story.

A soldier goes missing two days before the Armistice ends World War I. A decorated pilot encrypts his account of a failed diamond deal. A national police officer is executed on Stalin’s order. An industrialist loses everything, first in part to the Nazis, then totally to the Communists. A shopkeeper is arrested by the Gestapo and both he and his wife spend years in a forced labor camp and their sons are put in foster care. A civil servant hires a genealogist to prove German ancestry, changes his birth record, and dies in the rubble of the Third Reich. These brothers sought – with mixed results – to survive a half-century of virulent nativism, war, revolution, occupation, and repression as citizens of three different countries: Germany, Poland, and America.

In Lost Roots: Family, Identity, and Abandoned Ancestry, Karl von Loewe reveals how a single family was affected by rampant ethnic nationalism of the time—how each used it and was used by it—and how the secrets were kept.

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