$41.67 + FREE Delivery
Usually dispatched within 4 to 5 days.
Ships from and sold by Blackwell UK Ltd.
$41.67 + FREE Delivery
Other Sellers on Amazon
Add to Cart
+ FREE Delivery
Sold by: Book Depository UK
Add to Cart
+ $3.00 delivery
Sold by: Rarewaves UK
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Mischka's War: A Story of Survival from War-Torn Europe to New York Hardcover – 28 Jun 2017

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
click to open popover

Product details

Product description


Mischka Danos was able to make himself invisible if danger was in the offing, he could become totally still and unnoticeable, before silently melting away into the shadows. His third wife, the eminent historian of Soviet Russia, Sheila Fitzpatrick, witnessed it, twice, when they were confronted by muggers in the 1990s. She was amazed by how well it worked. But by then he was a past master at avoiding trouble.

Danos, a theoretical physicist, was born in Riga in 1922. Latvia was a punchbag for warring peoples during the 1940s, but he escaped conscription into the Latvian, German and Russian armies, despite being eligible for call-up every time. At the end of the war when Latvia was absorbed into the Soviet Union, Danos was in Germany, in the American sector.

Although technically a displaced person, he managed to secure a place (and comfortable digs) at Hanover University, and then at Heidelberg. His qualifications achieved, he married a German girl, set sail for New York and developed a successful career at several universities, being particularly remembered for his work on medical imaging devices.

He died in 1999. A few years later, Fitzpatrick opened a box he'd left behind. It contained his own diaries, along with his mother's, all their long correspondence and many more documents and photographs. She could not resist trying to describe, to re-create even, the young man she never knew.

To her surprise, however, the most important character of the resultant story proves to be Olga Danos, Mischka's long-dead mother. Endlessly resourceful, warm-hearted and generous, she managed to smuggle Jews out of the Riga ghetto, under cover of employing them under contract with the German army in her tailoring workshop. She cut seven years off her age to get to America, where she married a Japanese butler and settled in Florida. She really deserves a book of her own.

As for Mischka, the central episode of his war began in the spring of 1944, when he decided, astonishingly, to move to Germany. He explained that he'd thought the war would soon be over and the Russians would return to Riga: he wanted to continue to study physics, and Germany was considered the best place for it. Besides, he'd have a chance of getting to the west when it was all over. And so it proved. But he chose to go to Dresden.

It went well at first. The place was civilised, peaceful and beautiful. He even took a cheerful touring holiday around Germany in the winter of 1944-45. A slightly sour note is struck when Fitzpatrick mentions a letter, dated December 15 1944, from the Ministry for Armaments and War Production. It concerns his invention of "an acoustic pathfinding apparatus" and thanks Mischka for the "great interest he shows for the defence of the Third Reich." He later claimed to have systematically sought not to have helped the German war effort, but a question-mark hovers over that episode.

Deciding it was time to leave Dresden, he held a farewell party in his lodgings on February 13 1945. His account of what followed, reproduced almost verbatim, is the central episode of this book: it is chilling, both in content and in the curious detachment of the narrator.

The first sign of trouble is that the door, which had been closed, silently falls into the room. Pretty soon, his guests realise what is happening and disperse, but a girl he has invited lives the other side of town and he decides, reluctantly that he should see her home. They scramble to a hilltop and watch as the Allied bombing intensifies. As usual, the girl is anonymous and he the hero of the hour.

"The sight is mesmerizing; I stand there hypnotized, a 20th-century Nero." It becomes louder, hotter, closer, more terrifying. They hide in a shell hole, then take cover in a bunker. The next day they clamber over the steaming, smoking rubble of the city, confronted by unimaginable, unforgettable horrors and eventually get to her house, where he is fed and put to bed between clean sheets and -- for him -- it is over.

In her afterword, Fitzpatrick worries that her book might be a kind of betrayal: her researches have made even her critical of him, of his cavalier attitude to girls, his casual racial stereotyping, and what she calls his "loud silences" about the Jewish question and Nazism. She could be right.

Sadly, the loveable older man she remembers is not discernible in these pages. Danos comes across as conceited, selfish and patronising, boasting that he is "uncategorizeable." He was never known to apologise. But his mother was terrific.--Sue Gaisford, Financial Times (08/01/2017)

"A memoirist recounts her late husband's survival in wartime Europe ... [Mischka] Danos, a theoretical physicist, was born in Riga in 1922 ... He died in 1999. A few years later, [Sheila] Fitzpatrick [his third wife] opened a box he'd left behind. It contained his own diaries, along with his mother's, all their long correspondence and many more documents and photographs. She could not resist trying to describe, to re-create even, the young man she never knew."

--Sue Gaisford, Financial Times

"[Fitzpatrick writes with] honesty about the man she loved, and the difficult choices he had to make, that makes this unusual - and at times uncomfortable - book so compelling."

--Saul David, review in The Daily Telegraph, given 4\5 stars

"this is slightly different: it's not her life, but her husband's, and throughout the book she wrestles with the rights and wrongs of this, unwilling to betray his memory, but unwilling to betray her "historian's Hippocratic oath...'don't leave things out because you don't like them.'"

--Robert Eaglestone, The Times Higher Education Supplement, October 2017

"Sheila Fitzpatrick's extensive contribution to the history of Soviet Russia well deserves the acclaim it has received. The outstanding achievement of this section is Fitzpatrick's ability to trace the crisscrossings across northern Europe of the mostly separated mother and son(s)."-- (09/22/2017)

"'Show yourself as you are, make the readers like you, ' Fitzpatrick pleads with Mischka, the subject of her new biographical-historical investigation. It's an unusual situation for any writer to be in. Mischka is her dead husband, yet she's telling his story as a historian, reconstructing his early life from largely written sources... [his] strange move to Nazi Germany is at the heart of Fitzpatrick's book. Implicit is the question of how a man she loved and respected could have made a voluntary decision to move to Hitler's Germany four years into the war, apparently unperturbed by the racial situation there. It becomes even more odd when we learn that she discovered after his death that his Hungarian father was a Jew by bloodline, though he'd claimed throughout his adult life to be Catholic. And it takes on an eerie quality when we read that in winter 1944, Mischka took a tourist trip around his adopted homeland...The account of the Dresden bombing would alone be enough to make this fascinating book worth reading. There are few narratives published in English that record the experience on the streets that night in this much detail...It's one of the pleasurable quirks of fate recorded here that it was in America that he met the Australian historian of the Soviet Union who made it her business to document his peculiar, sometimes maddeningly triumphant life."

-- (11/02/2017)

About the Author

Sheila Fitzpatrick is Emerita Professor of History at the University of Chicago and Honorary Professor of History at the University of Sydney. One of the most acclaimed historians of twentieth-century Russia, she is the author of several books, including The Russian Revolution; Stalin's Peasants, Everyday Stalinism, Tear off the Masks! and A Spy in the Archive: A Memoir of Cold War Russia (I.B.Tauris, 2013).

1 customer review

5.0 out of 5 stars

Review this product

Share your thoughts with other customers

Showing 1-1 of 1 reviews

27 July 2017
Format: Kindle Edition

Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com

Amazon.com: 2.9 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
Michael Stoken
1.0 out of 5 starsWTF?
17 April 2018 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Jennifer Cameron-Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars‘This is a historian’s book, not a memoir, but it’s also a wife’s book about her husband.’
27 July 2017 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
4 people found this helpful.