In The Girl Who Survived Auschwitz, Sara Leibovits describes her experiences — on the train, in the concentration camp, in the fields, and on her trip home — in searing detail and with shocking immediacy. Despite the horrors surrounding her, and the devastation she experienced, she was able to maintain her humanity — the direct result of growing up in a loving home.
It is impossible to read a book about the Holocaust and not confront the atrocities committed each day in the camps. Yet Leibovits doesn’t dwell on those details. Instead, she focuses on her memories of survival and friendship. She talks about the girls from her town and how they helped each other in the camps in whatever ways they could. An extra morsel of moldy bread or a couple of spoonfuls of soup could be lifesaving. She also discusses her married life in Israel.
Leibovits’s mother and siblings were murdered shortly after they entered Auschwitz. Her father, and several of her friends’ fathers, survived for a while as Sonderkommandos, who would move the bodies from the gas chambers to the crematoria. This gruesome responsibility enabled the men to find morsels of food, or items that could be traded for food, in the pockets of those who’d been killed. They managed to pass these items on to their daughters to help them survive — until one day, they stopped. Sonderkommandos were never in their positions for longer than a few months.
Leibovits has written this story together with her daughter, Eti Elboim. As such, the book includes not only Leibovits’s firsthand memories of the Holocaust, but also Elboim’s perspective on how her mother’s experience affected her as a member of the second generation.
This story is a must-read. It reminds us that, in the face of human tragedy and evil, it is possible to maintain our dignity.
Marian Stoltz-Loike, Ph.D. is author, speaker and academician. She is the author of Dual Career Couples: New Perspectives in Counseling and Cross-Cultural Communication.