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Michael Rosen: ‘Stories hung in the air about great-aunts and uncles who’d gone’

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Searching for the missing pieces in his family brought poet and author Michael Rosen closer to the horror of war

Every time the poet Michael Rosen found out something new about what happened to his Jewish relatives during the Holocaust, he would send a round-robin email to his extended family. “My research brought me face to face with the destiny of Jews in Europe, seen through the prism of my own family.” Suddenly, he could imagine the “very real” journeys his relatives had taken, the places they’d hidden, the fear and hope they’d felt. “Because of the kind of person I am, I wanted to tell that story.”

The result is his latest book, The Missing, which will be published next week. A mixture of poetry and prose, it retraces Rosen’s journey as he searches for information about his European relatives who went “missing” before his birth in 1946.

They would have been full of hope for the future at the moment the Nazis arrived

My family’s life is utterly European. I’d never fully sensed that before

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