‘It was my first ball. I enjoyed the dancing, the drinking, the gaiety, the amazing speed and ease with which one found partners. I stayed until the band had played the last waltz.
How do I remember my few remaining days of youth and freedom, when I still felt that everything was possible, that I was special somehow, that life was only about to begin?’
George Clare, Last Waltz in Vienna
Greetings, dear readers, from Slightly Foxed. This week we’ve been drawn back to the SF bookshelves and to George Clare’s stunning memoir, Last Waltz in Vienna.
In February 1938, the grand Konzerthaus in Vienna was in full, glorious swing; bands were playing, there was dancing and singing and plenty of beer. It was the first ball ever attended by the 17-year-old Georg Klaar, and he stayed until the very last waltz. But on 11 March, lorries began thundering into the streets, filled with uniformed men waving swastikas. Austria was now betrayed and had been annexed by the German Third Reich. Barely four years later, Georg Klaar had become George Clare and was serving in the British army, and his parents had been arrested and taken to Auschwitz. Only with hindsight can George discern the complex reasons for his family’s destruction, and for the whole appalling waste of war. This is a profoundly moving, honest and compassionate memoir, remarkably devoid of self-pity, though not of anger.
Please do read on for a selection of related reading suggestions. You can also read more about the events that George Clare describes as his last days of ‘youth and freedom’ in an extract from Part Two of Last Waltz in Vienna on our website.
With best wishes, as ever, from the SF office staff
Hattie, Jess & Jemima