The House of Glass
The story and secrets of a twentieth century Jewish Family
23 September 2021
Join us on Thursday 23 September, 8.00pm (UK time) via Zoom at our Book Club event.
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‘A near-perfect study of Jewish identity in the 20th century … I don’t hesitate to call it a masterpiece’ Telegraph
After her grandmother died, Hadley Freeman travelled to her apartment to try and make sense of a woman she’d never really known. Sala Glass was a European expat in America – defiantly clinging to her French influences, famously reserved, fashionable to the end – yet to Hadley much of her life remained a mystery. Sala’s experience of surviving one of the most tumultuous periods in modern history was never spoken about.
When Hadley found a shoebox filled with her grandmother’s treasured belongings, it started a decade-long quest to find out their haunting significance and to dig deep into the extraordinary lives of Sala and her three brothers. The search takes Hadley from Picasso’s archives in Paris to a secret room in a farmhouse in Auvergne to Long Island and to Auschwitz.
By piecing together letters, photos and an unpublished memoir, Hadley brings to life the full story of the Glass siblings for the first time: Alex’s past as a fashion couturier and friend of Dior and Chagall; trusting and brave Jacques, a fierce patriot for his adopted country; and the brilliant Henri who hid in occupied France – each of them made extraordinary bids for survival during the Second World War. Alongside her great-uncles’ extraordinary acts of courage in Vichy France, Hadley discovers her grandmother’s equally heroic but more private form of female self-sacrifice.
A moving memoir following the Glass siblings throughout the course of the twentieth-century as they each make their own bid for survival, House of Glass explores assimilation, identity and home – issues that are deeply relevant today.
More extraordinarily still, Guttmann was a Holocaust survivor. Having narrowly dodged death by hiding for months in an attic near Budapest as thousands of fellow Jews in the neighbourhood were dragged off to be murdered, Guttmann later escaped from a slave labour camp. He was one of the lucky ones. His father, sister and wider family perished at the hands of the Nazis.
But by 1961, as coach of Benfica, he had lifted one of football’s greatest prizes: the European Cup – a feat he repeated the following year. Rising from the death pits of Europe to become its champion in just over sixteen years, Guttmann performed the single greatest comeback in football history.
This remarkable story spans two visions of twentieth-century Europe: a continent ruptured by barbarism and genocide, yet lit up by exhilarating encounters in magnificent cities, where great players would strive to win football’s holy grail. With dark forces rising once again, the story of Béla Guttmann’s life asks the question: which vision of Europe will triumph in our times?