“Alex,” the narrator of this memoir of the Holocaust experience, is a real person who did not want his identity revealed because it would be recognized. The author, living in Poland, was asked to meet with “Alex” when he visited Poland in 1992. The original 900 pages of interviews became this unusual 132 page narrative with a different slant on the Holocaust, Jewish identity and the Nazis, according to “Alex.”
“Alex” does not consider the Jews heroes for having survived, including himself. He does not demonize the Nazis although he experienced the Warsaw ghetto, forced marches and concentration camps. He criticizes American Jews for their intense identification with the Holocaust. He believes that instead of “never again,” American Jews should put the Holocaust behind them. Of course, few survivors agree with him.
His background is a confusing mix of traditional Judaism and secular pursuits. “I have always felt detached from life.” His Holocaust experience is a fascinating narrative, quite different from most of the others that have been recorded. “The war period remains murky in my mind.”
“Alex’s” liberation took place when he was 18. His residence in the Stuttgart Displaced Persons’ Camp was “the happiest period of my life.” An uncle invited “Alex” to the United States in 1946. Education led him to a career in computers. He continued to be annoyed with the concept of “We’ve survived to bear witness.” The commercialization of the Holocaust in the United States continued to disgust him.
This unusual reaction to the Holocaust experience should be read for its contrasting views and literary appeal. Index, maps.
Arlyne Samuels a graduate of Brooklyn College, taught and supervised English in New York City for 40 years. She was the coordinator of the book club of the Greater Worcester (MA) Chapter of Hadassah. Arlyne passed away in May 2009 and will be missed by the Jewish Book World team.