THOMAS GRAUMANN was born into a secular Jewish family in pre-war Czechoslovakia. He was saved from the Holocaust by the Kindertransport scheme, which brought hundreds of Jewish children to Britain. He lost his family, but gained a faith — being “rescued” for a second time as he experienced Evangelical conversion. He then trained as a missionary and headed out to the Philippines, incongruously wearing a kilt on his departure in commemoration of his Scottish upbringing.
It is an undeniably striking story, and one illustrated with some lovely details. Not least of these is the fact that the first English that the eight-year-old Graumann ever learnt was “Player’s, please”, a phrase taught by a Church of Scotland minister who sent him off to buy cigarettes. Although it is never quite clear where his words stop and those of his co-author, Tricia Goyer, start, there is authenticity and real honesty here.
As a text, this book brings together two genres. On one hand, there is the Holocaust testimony. On the other hand, there is the Evangelical conversion narrative. But Twice Rescued Child goes beyond both; for its author’s life took another turn.
Apparently unable to have children, he and his wife adopted — only to be told that this would prevent their continuing to be missionaries. They then conceived another child. The result was that much of the book is taken up with an account of quiet normality in North America, where Graumann and his wife raised their family. Hardly heroic, this is not the stuff of high literature; but it is a heart-warming end to a life that might have been very different.
The Revd Dr William Whyte is Fellow and Tutor of St John’s College, Oxford, and Professor of Social and Architectural History in the University of Oxford.
Twice Rescued Child
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