Boy 30529: A Memoir

Felix Wein­berg
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By – July 30, 2013

Return­ing to his home­town of Aus­sig in Czecho­slo­va­kia more than forty years after his lib­er­a­tion from Buchen­wald, Felix Wein­berg remarks, I believe that the Com­munists did more to destroy the beau­ty of my home­town than the Ger­mans did.” Such frank analy­sis of what was and was not done by the Ger­mans is cen­tral to this inter­est­ing and impor­tant nar­ra­tive. The author, a pro­fes­sor of Com­bus­tion Physics at the Impe­r­i­al Col­lege, Lon­don, decid­ed to write his mem­oir of the Holo­caust late in life for his chil­dren and grandchildren.

Wein­berg grew up in a wealthy fam­i­ly, com­plete with sum­mers spent on vaca­tion and win­ters at ski resorts. In 1938, with Hitler mov­ing on the Sude­ten­land, his father left for Eng­land to try to obtain visas for the rest of the fam­i­ly. The author cel­e­brat­ed his bar mitz­vah after Nazi reg­u­la­tions for­bid­ding Jews from trav­el­ling came into effect. At first Wein­berg was ret­i­cent to write about his expe­ri­ence in the Nazi camps. I tried hard to for­get, I want­ed to live for the future and not define myself as a camp sur­vivor.’” At first he was sent to There­sien­stadt, which he recalls as a rel­a­tive­ly decent expe­ri­ence com­pared to the shock that fol­lowed. Wein­berg cred­its his being saved from the gas cham­bers at Auschwitz to being appren­ticed to a man who liked him for ulte­ri­or motives. I always seem to have been attrac­tive to homo­sex­u­als, which turned out lat­er to be yet anoth­er fac­tor in sav­ing my life.” It was at Auschwitz that he last saw his moth­er and broth­er. Dis­patched to a satel­lite camp named Blech­ham­mer, the author recalls per­verse­ly that the slave labor bat­tal­ion he joined instead of try­ing to sab­o­tage the oper­a­tion, we decid­ed to act as an elite work­force.” As he describes the process of mirac­u­lous­ly sur­viv­ing the Nazi death machine, he comes to the con­clu­sion that sur­vival feels less like a hero­ic act than hav­ing won a lot­tery against tru­ly astro­nom­i­cal odds.”

There are many Holo­caust mem­oirs and there are sev­er­al famous ones that deal with the expe­ri­ence of the death march­es. For those famil­iar with these accounts the sto­ry relat­ed here will not be alto­geth­er new. How­ever, the author’s mat­ter-of-fact pre­sen­ta­tion and his rumi­na­tion on life so close to death pro­vide an impor­tant nar­ra­tive and one that researchers and those inter­est­ed in Jew­ish or Euro­pean his­to­ry, espe­cial­ly stu­dents, will find immense­ly com­pelling. Acknowl­edg­ments, appen­dix, fore­word, preface.

Seth J. Frantz­man received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty of Jerusalem where he cur­rent­ly holds a Post-Doc­tor­al Fel­low­ship. He is a colum­nist for the Jerusalem Post and Fel­low at the Jerusalem Insti­tute of Mar­ket Studies.

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