Spanning two centuries of one extraordinary family, and researched over a year the author spent living in Berlin, visiting dusty archives and meeting long-lost relatives, Endpapers tells the captivating story of the renowned German-American publisher Kurt Wolff and his son Niko.
Kurt Wolff, the author's grandfather, was born in Bonn into a highly cultured and successful German-Jewish family, whose ancestors included converts to Christianity, including one notorious for participating in a duel that led to bloody antisemitic riots. Kurt found renown as a publisher at twenty-three, setting up his own firm and publishing Franz Kafka, Joseph Roth, Heinrich Mann, and other writers whose books would be burned by the Nazis. Fleeing Germany in 1933, a day after the Reichstag fire, Kurt and his wife Helen sought refuge in France, Italy, and ultimately New York. There they founded Pantheon Books, which would soon take its own place in literary history with publication of Nobel laureate Boris Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhivago
, alongside many other influential texts. But Kurt's son Niko, born from an earlier marriage, was left behind in Germany, where despite his Jewish heritage he served in the Wehrmacht on the Eastern front, and came to the U.S. after spending time in an American prisoner of war camp. As he retraces the steps of his taciturn father and larger-than-life grandfather, Wolff discovers shocking things that never made it to the land of fresh starts, including how the E. Merck pharmaceutical firm--founded and run by the author's ancestors--peddled drugs to Hitler, and the astonishing story of a half-brother Alexander's father never knew.
Drawing on never-before-published family letters, diaries, and photographs, Endpapers is an intimate tapestry of the perils, triumphs, and secrets of history and exile, one with a powerful message for today.