Liv­ing Among the Dead: My Grand­moth­er’s Holo­caust Sur­vival Sto­ry of Love and Strength

September 1, 2019

This is the sto­ry of one remark­able wom­an’s unimag­in­ably hor­rif­ic jour­ney through the rise of the Nazi regime, the war, and the after­math. Her sto­ry is nar­rat­ed by her grand­daugh­ter and the book is inter­wo­ven with beau­ti­ful pas­sages of poet­ry and per­son­al reflec­tion by the sur­vivor, Mania Licht­en­stein. She wit­nessed Jews being mur­dered in their life­long com­mu­ni­ties, slaugh­tered by mass killing units, and then buried in pits. Although she was the sole sur­vivor of her fam­i­ly, Mania went on to rebuild a new life in a new coun­try, with a new lan­guage and new cus­toms, always car­ry­ing with her the loss­es of her fam­i­ly and mem­o­ries of the bru­tal­i­ty she wit­nessed and lived through. Near­ly eighty years after the Holo­caust, we are still wit­ness­ing acts of cru­el­ty born out of hatred and dis­crim­i­na­tion. Liv­ing Among the Dead reminds us of the beau­ti­ful com­mu­ni­ties that exist­ed before World War II, the lives lost and those that lived on, and the impor­tance to nev­er for­get these sto­ries so that his­to­ry does not repeat itself.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Ade­na Bern­stein Astrowsky

  1. What does the author mean by being a Memo­r­i­al Candle?

  3. Bubbie’s radio was con­sid­ered a lux­u­ry item at the time. What is an item you would con­sid­er a lux­u­ry item now and why?

  5. Bub­bie said she sur­vived because of fate.” What do you think of fate? Do you think this was the only rea­son she survived?

  7. The author dis­cuss­es being an upstander ver­sus a bystander. What does she mean by this?

  9. Why was Jan­i­na ini­tial­ly will­ing to take in Bub­bie and Popa but then lat­er moved them to the horse sta­bles and then the for­est. What changed?

  11. Why do you think Bub­bie returned to her home­town know­ing every­thing she knew was gone?

  13. What would be the con­sid­er­a­tions for your deci­sion to warn oth­ers, keep qui­et or take action in a sim­i­lar situation?

  15. Bub­bie used writ­ing as a medi­um to deal with her feel­ings. Do you have a sim­i­lar way of deal­ing with yours?

  17. Thoughts on Sur­vival: What do you think was going through the minds of Mania and the oth­er escaped Jews while in hid­ing? How could any­one bear stand­ing or squat­ting in silence for weeks while hear­ing peo­ple being chased and shot out­side? What would be going through you mind? Do you think you could stay silent for that long?

  19. Do you think Mania and Joseph ever talked about what hap­pened to them once their life became nor­mal” again? Would you want to talk about it with the one per­son who shared the ter­ror with you, or would you try to keep it suppressed?

  21. Mania talks about sev­er­al of her fam­i­ly mem­bers and oth­ers who helped her dur­ing the trag­ic times as heroes.” The father-in-law who shares his por­tion of dirty water with her instead of drink­ing it him­self or her grand­moth­er shar­ing the tiny pickle…she refers to sev­er­al of them as her heroes in the sto­ry. Who are the heroes” in today’s soci­ety? We always see them as Super Heroes in movies or comics, but after read­ing about Mania’s heroes, can you think about any heroes in your life? In your community?

  23. Sev­er­al pho­tographs are includ­ed in the book. How do they help you under­stand the sto­ry? Choose one pho­to­graph that stands out to you and dis­cuss why you find it meaningful.

  25. The author has writ­ten a very per­son­al book about her Bub­bie.” If you were writ­ing about a fam­i­ly mem­ber, who would you choose and why?

  27. Explain your inter­pre­ta­tion of the title, Liv­ing Among the Dead.

  29. Choose your favorite poem from the book and inter­pret what it means to you.

  31. This sto­ry is told from the per­spec­tive of a grand­daugh­ter. How would it be dif­fer­ent if it were in first per­son, told by Bub­bie? How does hav­ing a third-per­son nar­ra­tion add to the story?

  33. Why do you think sur­vivors often feel guilty?

  35. Why is this book rel­e­vant today?

  37. Do we see geno­cide occur­ring in the world today? Where/​How?

  39. Why is it impor­tant to read about Holo­caust sur­vivors today?