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Hunting the Truth

Memoirs of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld

Beate and Serge Klarsfeld; Translated from the French by Sam Taylor

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Hunting the Truth Download image

ISBN10: 0374538174
ISBN13: 9780374538170

Trade Paperback

472 Pages



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They were born on opposite sides of the Second World War: Beate grew up in the ruins of a defeated Weimar Germany, while Serge, a Jewish boy in France, was hiding in a cupboard when his father was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. They met on the Paris Métro and fell in love, and became famous when Beate slapped the face of the West German chancellor—a former Nazi—Kurt Georg Kiesinger.

For the past half century, Beate and Serge Klarsfeld have hunted, confronted, prosecuted, and exposed Nazi war criminals all over the world, tracking down the notorious torturer Klaus Barbie in Bolivia and attempting to kidnap the former Gestapo chief Kurt Lischka on the streets of Cologne. They have been sent to prison for their beliefs and have risked their lives protesting anti-Semitism behind the Iron Curtain in South America and in the Middle East. They have been insulted and exalted, assaulted and heralded; they’ve received honors from presidents and letter bombs from neo-Nazis. They have fought relentlessly not only for the memory of all those who died in the Holocaust but also for modern-day victims of genocide and discrimination across the world. And they have done it all while raising their children and sustaining their marriage.

Now, for the first time, in Hunting the Truth, a major memoir written in their alternating voices, Beate and Serge Klarsfeld tell the thrilling story of a lifetime dedicated to combating evil.


Praise for Hunting the Truth

"Riveting . . . absorbing . . . As their memoirs make clear, these militants of memory never lost sight of their goal."—Benjamin Balint, The Wall Street Journal

"Exceptionally relevant . . . an awe-inspiring account of one couple's relentless pursuit of Nazi criminals . . . The Klarsfelds are reluctant memoirists, Serge explains, but their fidelity to accuracy and their humility regarding monumental triumphs of justice serve as urgent messages to us all."—Elizabeth Rosner, San Francisco Chronicle

"Assertive . . . Hunting the Truth] helps us understand how these two otherwise ordinary individuals—a nonobservant Jewish Frenchman and a gentile German woman—came to devote themselves with such single-minded daring to the cause of achieving both justice and commemoration for the French victims of the Holocaust . . . The Klarsfelds’ success has been undeniable."—Robert O. Paxton, The New York Review of Books

"Hunting the Truth is an important book, with an immeasurable educational value. At the narrative level, the authors have written a history primer about the unimaginable cruelty of the Nazis and their willing French collaborators, whom the Klarsfelds helped bring to justice. Alongside the narrative stratum, however, they have compiled a moving treatise based upon their personal experiences."—Mordechai Ben-Dat, The Canadian Jewish News

"A riveting record . . . Anti-semitic hatred, in Sartre’s formulation, “is first of all a passion.” By presenting their many years of struggle for a “great, just cause,” the Klarsfelds’ memoir affirms a far higher and more enduring passion."—Peter E. Kornblub, Jewish Book Council

"Remarkable . . . Throughout their harrowing work, [the Klarsfelds] maintained a home in Paris and remain to this day devoted to and inspired by each other. A masterful work of historical importance."Booklist (starred review)

"At its best [Hunting the Truth] gives an exhilarating picture of amateurs assuming investigative duties in search of long-overdue justice."Publishers Weekly

"With bravery and chutzpah, a husband and wife demonstrate that there’s no moral compromise with history."Kirkus Reviews

“This inspiring memoir of persistence and staying true to one’s beliefs will remind all readers that although it may be slow, justice will triumph.”Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


THREE WEEKS AFTER my birth, Hitler entered Prague. In Berlin, my father calmly put away the pencils he used in his job at an insurance company. He kissed my mother, Hélène, and his only daughter, Beate-Auguste,...

About the author

Beate and Serge Klarsfeld; Translated from the French by Sam Taylor

Beate and Serge Klarsfeld are renowned French activists whose work apprehending Nazi war criminals, seeking justice for victims and survivors of war crimes, and establishing the historical record of the Holocaust has brought them international recognition. Recipients of France’s Legion of Honor and Germany’s Federal Order of Merit, they were named UNESCO Ambassadors of Genocide Prevention by the United Nations in 2015 and were granted honorary Israeli citizenship by the Israeli government in recognition of their support of the Jewish cause. Beate is the recipient of the Jabotinski Prize, and both Beate and Serge have received the HIAS Liberty Award and the Raoul Wallenberg Prize.

Sam Taylor has written for The Guardian, Financial Times, Vogue, and Esquire, and has translated such works as the award-winning HHhH by Laurent Binet; The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal, which won the French-American Foundation Translation Prize and was a finalist for the Albertine Prize; and the internationally bestselling The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker.

Beate Klarsfeld

Serge Klarsfeld

Klarsfeld Foundation