W. Michael Blumenthal, former US Secretary of the Treasury, and author of a new memoir From Exile to Washington, explains the story behind the book:
"In 1998, I wrote The Invisible Wall, in which I attempted to trace the roots of the relationship between German Jews and non-Jews over several centuries, leading to the disaster of the Nazis. The technique I used was to focus on six of my ancestors – some famous, some quite ordinary – whose life experiences struck me as a fitting paradigm for the ups and downs of the German-Jewish relationship over 300 years and which helps explain the disastrous end result. This approach apparently succeeded quite well: the book was well received and reviewed in the U.S. and after its translated publication, in Germany, as well.
It is this which gave me the idea of a similar approach of melding the 20th century historical events with personal experiences – my own. From Exile to Washington was the result.
What motivated me, was the special and unusual course of my life, mirroring the heights and depths of the 20th century experience: Holocaust survivor, Stateless Displaced Person confined to a Shanghai ghetto, penniless immigrant to the U.S., and – by luck or happenstance – a steep climb up the ladder to positions of power and influence as CEO of two major U.S. corporations and as a U.S. Ambassador representing my adopted country, serving three Presidents, including as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under President Carter. All this in a full circle: starting out life as a German-Jewish boy, no attachment to Germany over many years, and then an intense new relationship with the country of my birth as Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin, a major socio-cultural institution in the reunited Federal Republic of Germany since the end of the century.
I wrote the story in this way because I realized that the way-stations of my life – war and Holocaust victim, insider in U.S. political and economic dominance, personal relationships at the Presidential level in three administrations, dealing with the centuries’ great leaders – Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, the Shah of Iran, Chou & Deng in China, Schmidt and Ehrhard in Germany, Arab and Israeli leaders, etc. – gave me a unique vantage point to observe how the 20th century’s history evolved."