Jacob’s Courage: A Holo­caust Love Story

Charles S. Weinblatt
  • Review
By – December 12, 2011

This nov­el traces the pro­gres­sion of the Nazi war machine from its onset to the Holocaust’s dev­as­tat­ing con­clu­sion through the thoughts and expe­ri­ences of the cen­tral char­ac­ter, Jacob Sil­ver­man, a sev­en­teen year-old aspir­ing musi­cian and law stu­dent from Salzburg, Aus­tria. Jacob is the only son of a promi­nent local doc­tor, Moshe Sil­ver­man, and his kind but trou­bled wife, Han­na. Rachel Gold­berg is the love of Jacob’s life and the daugh­ter of Ariel, anoth­er respect­ed physi­cian in Salzburg and a close friend and col­league of Jacob’s father. Through Jacob and Rachel’s bond the fam­i­lies become fur­ther con­nect­ed and their des­tinies intertwined. 

Long before Hitler’s army puts its plans for the anni­hi­la­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple into motion, Jacob has a hor­rif­ic dream so vivid that he is con­vinced it must be a pre­mo­ni­tion warn­ing him of the atroc­i­ties to come. From iso­la­tion to star­va­tion and tor­ture, Jacob bears wit­ness as the Nazis sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly dehu­man­ize the Jew­ish race, bring­ing their brazen plot for exter­mi­na­tion ever clos­er to real­i­ty. Jacob’s feel­ings of pow­er­less­ness are often inter­rupt­ed by thoughts of rebel­lion and escape and the pos­si­bil­i­ty that God has a greater plan for him, a des­tiny bound to lead­er­ship and the sur­vival of Judaism. 

Mixed among the detailed descrip­tions of the sur­re­al atroc­i­ties inflict­ed upon the Jews of Europe is a ten­der com­ing of age tale. Jacob and Rachel’s love flour­ish­es amid the ghet­tos and con­cen­tra­tion camps where they are forced to reside. While their emo­tion­al strength and devo­tion is to be com­mend­ed, the revealed details of their rela­tion­ship often feel mis­placed and inap­pro­pri­ate set against the back­drop of des­ti­tute labor and death camps. The inner thoughts of indi­vid­ual char­ac­ters revealed reg­u­lar­ly through­out the book are also dis­tract­ing as the dia­logue has a ten­den­cy to be redun­dant and unre­al­is­tic under the circumstances. 

This book shows the crit­i­cal roles that love, deter­mi­na­tion, and stead­fast belief play toward bat­tling one’s demons both phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly. While at times dif­fi­cult to digest, Jacob’s Courage is ulti­mate­ly a trib­ute to the tri­umphant human spirit. 

Mol­ly Beth Dubin received an M.A. in art his­to­ry and muse­um stud­ies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Den­ver. She is cul­tur­al arts direc­tor for the Har­ry & Rose Sam­son Fam­i­ly Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter of Milwaukee.

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