Walter’s Welcome is the story of Walter Neisser and the more than fifty members of his family he helped to escape Nazi Germany. The story is told through the letters of the Neisser family, which have been meticulously translated and arranged by Walter’s niece, Eva, who also provides moving historical contextualization and commentary. After fleeing Germany, the Neissers resettled in Peru. However, their flight was neither easy nor seamless. Walter worked tirelessly to provide the resources and guidance necessary for the many members of the family to escape, but communications to Europe were frazzled and travel off the continent became increasingly impossible with each passing day, requiring extraordinary will and coordination to contact the correct officials and receive the necessary documentation. The family’s letters reveal the toll these efforts put on them and the challenges of waiting and surviving in a foreign land as they tried to hold together.
The story of Jewish escapees to Latin America has only recently begun to be widely explored. This memoir-in-letters explores the difficulties of daily life in this little explored context, as the Neisser family and many other escaped Jews adjusted to a new home and tried to build a new life in the shadow of the many horrific things happening back in the land they’d left behind.
“This is a fascinating and little-known account how one family clan from among German Jewry found a new home in unusual circumstances in a distant country in which people of such background were seldom welcomed. I am still digesting the book’s riches—and sharing it with others.”--Walter Laqueur, historian and bestselling author of Putinism : Russia and its future with the West "This captivating life account of an extended German-Jewish family that survived the Holocaust thanks to the determined efforts by one of its members to bring his relatives to Peru in the 1930s reads like a beautifully conceived epistolary novel. Combining a rich trove of family photographs with an extensive archive of letters, Walter’s Welcome meshes personal stories with larger histories to render a complex, multifocal contribution to our understanding of the German-Jewish refugee experience in Latin America. . . . A pleasure to read, it manages to instruct and enlighten us while also touching our heart.”--Leo Spitzer, author of Hotel Bolivia: The Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism, Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor of History Emeritus, Dartmouth College “I found Walter’s Welcome very interesting and absorbing—the letters from both sides of the ocean are informative throughout. And what marvelous photos.”--Natalie Zemon Davis, author of The Return of Martin Guerre “Who is Walter Neisser? A scrappy youth who makes his own welcome in Peru? Or is he the patriarch who welcomes those leaving their crumbling lives in Europe? In this gripping story, he is both, of course. Candidly and vividly, Echenberg’s story preserves and organizes a unique record of the extent of the Jewish diaspora in South America.”--Raúl Necochea López, historian, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill “Eva Echenberg’s book is a very moving true story of tikkun olam—acts of kindness performed to repair the world—in Peru during the turbulent years of World War II by one decent and secular man who saved family and friends from certain death. Walter’s Welcome is essential reading for all, particularly now, at this time of change.”--Gaby Klehmann Winter, interpreter and translator