Survivors Club

Farrar, Strauss & Giroux  2017

 

If the author’s father, at the age of 70, thought that it was finally time for him to tell her about how he and his family fared in the Holocaust, then it was time for the author, his journalist daughter, to try to fill in every detail. Wasn’t that he, on the cover of this book, the youngest child in the front row of the famous photograph of survivor children in Auschwitz, each displaying a tattooed forearm? The children don’t look maltreated or skeletal, nor do they look frightened. Their Russian liberators had taken good care of them for weeks, before they took this photo to prove that there were some children in Auschwitz.

His story would have begun when he was a very little child in a Polish town three quarters filled with Jews, some related to one another. These are the people whose experiences in the Holocaust the author has researched and incorporated into the details of her father’s and his immediate family’s, experiences. The author tells a story woven from many conversations, research, and travel, all of which she pursued with diligence to produce this exceptional book of memoir and history. Long-gone family members are resurrected, survivors trying to return to Jew-hating towns. There, too, are their experiences, some dangerous, in DP camps and afterwards, trying to find any surviving family, marrying and becoming a whole person once again, restocking once more the tribe called “Jews.”

This is a book worth reading more than once. It is compelling; there is something novelistic about it. It certainly reads with more verve and detail than most straight testimonies. Why had the author’s father waited 70 years since leaving Auschwitz to at last tell his daughter, a writer, the story of his experiences as a prisoner there? He must have been waiting for her to be ready to receive it. Although listed for ages 10 – 14, it also makes excellent adult reading.

It includes an afterword, a family who’s-who, and a glossary.

Visiting Scribe: Debbie Bornstein Holinstat,/a>


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