Ariana Neumann never imagined her father was anything other than the successful Venezuelan businessman he portrayed. When a collection of letters and documents after his death are translated, she discovers the heartbreaking truth of his youth as a Jewish man in Czechoslovakia, and the remarkable mettle that allowed him to survive while so many relatives perished. As she reflects on the contrast between his tortured past and her gilded youth, Ariana illuminates the fierceness with which he held onto life. Many people have struggled to understand their parents, but few discover such a fascinating story as the one unearthed by Ariana Neumann. —Elaine— From Elaine and Luisa's Picks: January - February 2020
February 2020 Indie Next List
“This book is beautiful, intimate, breathtaking, and heartbreaking. It reads like a novel and yet gives a better sense of what was happening to Jewish families during the Holocaust than any history book I’ve read. I feel so invested in the Neumann family and their friends, as if I know them personally. More than anything, my takeaway from this book is the love and hope that was so clearly poured into it.”
— Gabrielle Belisle, An Unlikely Story, Plainville, MA
Winter 2020 Reading Group Indie Next List
“This book exceeded all my expectations — an exceptional memoir! A woman cobbles together her father’s enigmatic past to build a clear picture of the progression of restrictions and brutality against Jews in WWII. An astounding revelation of anguish and grasps of hope.”
— Annette Steinmetz, The Well-Read Moose, Coeur d'Alene, ID
In this remarkably moving memoir Ariana Neumann dives into the secrets of her father’s past: years spent hiding in plain sight in war-torn Berlin, the annihilation of dozens of family members in the Holocaust, and the courageous choice to build anew.
In 1941, the first Neumann family member was taken by the Nazis, arrested in German-occupied Czechoslovakia for bathing in a stretch of river forbidden to Jews. He was transported to Auschwitz. Eighteen days later his prisoner number was entered into the morgue book.
Of thirty-four Neumann family members, twenty-five were murdered by the Nazis. One of the survivors was Hans Neumann, who, to escape the German death net, traveled to Berlin and hid in plain sight under the Gestapo’s eyes. What Hans experienced was so unspeakable that, when he built an industrial empire in Venezuela, he couldn’t bring himself to talk about it. All his daughter Ariana knew was that something terrible had happened.
When Hans died, he left Ariana a small box filled with letters, diary entries, and other memorabilia. Ten years later Ariana finally summoned the courage to have the letters translated, and she began reading. What she discovered launched her on a worldwide search that would deliver indelible portraits of a family loving, finding meaning, and trying to survive amid the worst that can be imagined.
When Time Stopped is an unputdownable detective story and an epic family memoir, spanning nearly ninety years and crossing oceans. Neumann brings each relative to vivid life. In uncovering her father’s story after all these years, she discovers nuance and depth to her own history and liberates poignant and thought-provoking truths about the threads of humanity that connect us all.
About the Author
Ariana Neumann was born and grew up in Venezuela. She previously worked as a foreign correspondent for Venezuela’s The Daily Journal and her writing has also appeared in The European. She currently lives in London with her family. When Time Stopped is her first book.
New York Times Bestseller
An Amazon Best Books of the Year Pick
Winner of the 2020 National Jewish Book Award for Autobiography/Memoir
“The story Neumann uncovers is worthy of fiction with hairpin plot twists, daredevil acts of love and unexpected moments of humor in dark times. Given the slew of colorful characters and dramatic details, she could have turned her painstaking research into a historical novel. Instead she has written a superb family memoir that unfolds its poignant power on multiple levels. Yes, her account of one Jewish-Czech family’s race to outwit the Nazis makes for thrilling reading. But just as important is her lucid investigation of the nature of memory, identity and remembrance.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“When Time Stopped is a beautifully told story of personal discovery, of almost unimaginable human bravery and sacrifice, and a harrowing portrait of living, dying, and surviving under the yoke of Nazism.”
—John le Carré, author of Agent Running in the Field
“This deeply personal narrative tells the story of Ariana Neumann’s family, many of whom were killed by Nazis, and grapples with Neumann’s attempt to uncover secrets left behind by her Holocaust-survivor father after his death.”
“Reads like a thriller and it is so, so timely. The work and emotion put into [the] book is unbelievable.”
“When Time Stopped is beautiful, deeply moving, and extraordinary in its reach and its depth. I felt such kinship with the way in which Ariana Neumann moved through the world in her journey. It is absolutely remarkable.”
—Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with Amber Eyes
“Profound, gripping, and gut-wrenching…This heartbreaking and unforgettable memoir belongs in every library for the important history Neumann unearths. Like Anne Frank's diary, it offers a story that needs to be told and heard.”
—Booklist (Starred Review)
“Utterly riveting: Ms. Neumann's memoir reads like a detective novel, as she unravels her late father's complex, agonizing yet inspiring trajectory. Conjuring the lives of her relatives murdered in the Holocaust, she brings their lost world to vivid life.”
—Claire Messud, author of The Emperor’s Children and The Woman Upstairs
“Neumann debuts with a deeply moving account of her father’s life during the Holocaust… This gripping, expertly researched narrative will inspire those looking to uncover their own family histories.”
“Ariana Neumann's beautiful, meticulously researched memoir is an extraordinarily moving story of a family’s lost history, a father’s well-kept secret, and a daughter who pieces it all together with courage, tenacity, and most of all, love.”
—Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance, Devotion, and Still Writing
“[An] astonishing story of survival…Neumann’s eloquent, skillfully researched book will appeal to many, especially those interested in family histories and the lives of Holocaust survivors.”
“I’ve read countless memoirs. I’ve read hundreds of books about the Holocaust and mysteries and detective stories and rigorously researched tomes of history and psychological studies of the effects of trauma. But never in my reading life have I ever come across anything akin to this magical, brilliant, and gripping work of art.”
—Deborah Copaken, author of The Red Book
“Through her painstaking work Neumann takes lifeless fragments ensuring her family's obscurity, and magically brings them back to life in this carefully woven beautifully written tapestry. This is a work of resistance against oblivion, a reminder against forgetting, an investigation driven by true love.”
—Stephen D. Smith, PhD, Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation
“An astonishing family memoir that will imprint itself on your psyche as only the best books can, forever changing the way you look at your own family. With a mastery of the dogged art of research rarely seen, and with an exquisite narrative sensibility to match, Ariana Neumann has breached the hidden surface of her family’s tumultuous past and brought not only their tragedies and sorrows, but also their joys and loves, to indelible light.”
—John Burnham Schwartz, author of The Red Daughter, The Commoner and Reservation Road
“A love letter to a father who, out of sheer will and determination, did not allow the Nazis to destroy him—and who rose to become one of Venezuela's most successful industrialists. Part literary memoir, part mystery tale, Ariana Neumann's tribute to her father is a classic story of redemption and love.”
—Janine di Giovanni, author of The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria