Aaron’s Jour­ney: From Slave to Master

Howard Her­skowitz
  • Review
By – September 9, 2011

This is not an easy book to read. It is the mem­oir of the ordeal of Aaron Her­skowitz, a young Czecho­slo­va­kian who was caught up in the dead­ly caul­dron of Nazi occu­pied Europe, who some­how sur­vived and with the help of his son, the author of this work, shares his har­row­ing expe­ri­ences with the read­er. As Aaron dis­clos­es in the begin­ning of the book: I am…beloved son, father, broth­er, hus­band; a…patriotic son of Czecho­slo­va­kia, sol­dier, lover of God; slave labor­er, hater of God, Russ­ian par­ti­san, per­se­cu­tor, killer, sur­vivor.” He shares his sto­ry hon­est­ly, with­out apol­o­gy and with no effort to smooth over the jagged edges of the expe­ri­ence. The mem­oir is often raw and dis­turb­ing, true to the times and the per­son­al­i­ties it depicts. Per­haps the most stun­ning aspect of the book is the blood rage” it depicts, the ret­ri­bu­tion that Aaron and his col­leagues took against Nazis and their col­lab­o­ra­tors. These scenes are bru­tal and dis­turb­ing and raise ques­tions about stan­dards of appro­pri­ate behav­ior under extreme cir­cum­stances. Aaron urges the read­er to “…hear my tes­ti­mo­ny before ren­der­ing judg­ment, and ask your­self: what would you have done in my place?” 

The book is well-writ­ten and often grip­ping and pro­vides a per­spec­tive rarely found in Holo­caust mem­oirs. It is rec­om­mend­ed for mature read­ers who have the per­spec­tive and back­ground to engage the mate­r­i­al and the eth­i­cal issues it raises.

Michael N. Dobkows­ki is a pro­fes­sor of reli­gious stud­ies at Hobart and William Smith Col­leges. He is co-edi­tor of Geno­cide and the Mod­ern Age and On the Edge of Scarci­ty (Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty Press); author of The Tar­nished Dream: The Basis of Amer­i­can Anti-Semi­tism; and co-author of The Nuclear Predicament.

Discussion Questions