A Stone for Eva (by Thomas Harder and Lene Ewald Hesel) tells the story of Eva Salomonsen’s life, from 1855 when she was born Evaline Wagner in the small market town of Bogense, to her death in Theresienstadt in October 1943.
The book begins and ends on 28 July 2020 when a “stumbling stone” in memory of Eva Salomonsen was placed in front of Bredgade 51 in central Copenhagen where Eva lived for the last 30 years of her life – and where the authors live today. A Stone for Eva tells the story of Eva Salomonsen’s life and of the world in which she lived before becoming a victim, and of the very last days of her long life.
The Wagner family’s relocation to Copenhagen in 1867 allows the authors to describe the affluent, cultured Jewish bourgeoisie, which Eva Wagner and her siblings married into; the poor Jewish immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe, who lived in the slums that were never more than a couple of streets away from Eva Salomonsen’s fashionable addresses; and the antisemitism, which was always present in the mainstream press and in ordinary conversation until the German occupation in 1940 made antisemitism ”un-Danish”.
Eva’s son, David, was afflicted by polio as a young boy, but nevertheless managed to become a playboy and a globetrotter. The book tells the story of how he and his two daughters, Annelise and Tove, managed to escape to Sweden (hidden in the coal bunker of a Danish cargo ship leaving from the port of Copenhagen), their life as refugees, the two young women’s work – and personal growth – in the Danish Brigade (DANFORCE), their return to Denmark, and what they brought with them.
The story of Eva and her family is a red thread that unites Jewish history in Denmark and Europe (Eva’s family originated in Germany and had connections in Scotland), the history of the modernization of European societies and culture in the late 19th century, and the history of the Holocaust.
The book is based on unpublished material made available by Eva Salomonsen’s great-granddaughters as well as archival material and numerous other sources. The authors have unearthed Danish police records and German military files which shed new light on the deportation of Danish Jews to Theresienstadt and on how the vast majority of Danish Jews managed to escape to Sweden.
The Danish version of the book, En sten for Eva - Bogense 1855-Theresienstadt 1943, was published by Gads Forlag on 30 September 2022.