Tag Archives: Holocaust Memoir

The Pages In Between: A Holocaust Legacy of Two Families, One Home

Once again, I found myself reading a Holocaust memoir in which a surviving parent did not want to reveal too much information, if any, about their Holocaust experience to their child/children. The Pages In Between: A Holocaust Legacy of Two Families, One Home, by Erin Einhorn, is a novel written by a daughter whose mother, Irena, survived the Holocaust, a mother who seemed indifferent as to the events and actions that kept her alive. Einhorn, who was always curious, traveled to Poland in order to find out the truth of her mother’s history, and to see if the house was still standing.

Irena was born in 1942, in Bedzin, Poland, within the walls of the Jewish ghetto. Irena’s parents were deported a year later, and while on the train, her father managed to jump off the train. He managed to make his way back to the Bedzin, and made a arrangements with a Polish woman…he would give the woman authority over his property if she would hide his daughter. He promised to return for his daughter as soon as the war was over.

True to his word, he did return for Irena (her mother died in Auschwitz). She was a frightened child, and her father was a stranger to her. The only “parents” she had memory of were the Skowronskis, the family who Irena’s father left her with. He took her to Switzerland, and from there they eventually emigrated to America.

The years pass by, and the story begins with Irena’s daughter, who is a reporter, living in Krakow, with her roommates Krys and Magda. The purpose of Einhorn being there is to try to find the family “that made my life possible“, and try to locate the house that had belonged to her grandfather. She knows where to begin, how to get to Bedzin, but is hesitant, afraid of failure. She is more or less on her own, as her mother, Irena, won’t reveal much to her, and is totally uninterested in finding out about the family that saved her life. Irena’s attitude is uncaring and unconcerned. Anxiety exudes from Einhorn’s pores.

The Pages In Between
is a fascinating story, taking the reader on an ominous trip back through time, and forward again to the legalities of the present. One is left to ponder several issues, such as greed and entitlement.

Is it greed to want monetary compensation for helping to save a life? Doesn’t there come a point when boundaries are crossed in the expectations of those who saved others? Is an individual financially responsible to those who saved the life of their child/loved one? Does one save a life without expecting compensation or reward because it is the correct thing to do? Where does greed begin and gratitude end? Where does gratitude begin and greed end? Are those who are the living indefinitely bound to support those who helped them survive? Who owns the property left under duress and horrific conditions? Who are the victims in the process…the child who was saved, those who helped save her, the succeeding generations, or are they all victims in a sense? There are these and more questions to think about.

I recommend The Pages in Between: A Holocaust Legacy of Two Families, One Home. It is an extremely compelling memoir, and one that evokes a unique perspective on the Holocaust. It is a book of historical depth and documentation, depicting the continual after-effects of the Holocaust, and how WWII and the Holocaust affected families, in the long-range. It is a book of historical depth and documentation, depicting the continual effects of the Holocaust. Erin Einhorn writes with stark frankness, and at the same time is sensitive to the issues she confronts on her journey of discovery. Her story is an incredible psychological study on the interplay between family dynamics and the Holocaust. For those interested in Holocaust History, this is an excellent resource and a must read.

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Lorri M. Review: Where She Came From

whereshecamefrom Where She Came From: A Daughter’s Search for Her Mother’s History, by Helen Epstein is an extremely compelling memoir. We journey with Helen Epstein as she searches for her familial past, and searches for answers regarding her family members who were murdered during the Holocaust.

The book is difficult to put down, once you start to read it. I was engrossed in this book from the first page…although it was a slow read for me, because I wanted to grasp the intensity of the generational saga, and grasp the historical facts, correctly.

Epstein
has more than proved herself as a writer in this dramatic memoir of family generations, identity, and history. We journey with her through time, through the positive and negative aspects, through the good and not so good, through the hardships and adversity. The reader is given remnants of life in a familial tapestry, through history, through the horrors of war, and how it affects all the generations, from past to present, and also how it can and will affect future generations.

From assimilating into society and racial and religious identity, to how one views themselves and what they identify with, Where She Came From is written with insight, often brutal in Epstein’s vivid descriptions. She writes with love, with yearning and the emotions of loss, she writes with clarity. Where She Came From is an extremely inspiring book.

How does one start over after enduring such atrocities and horrors? Is there laughter in your life, once again? How does the past affect the present? Does God exist? These are just a few of the questions Where She Came From leaves the reader to ponder, and Epstein pondered those issues and questions, and many more. She manages to weave a tapestry of her family, each moment in time adds to the fabric of her own identity, as she comes closer to some of her ancestral answers. We laugh with her, and cry with her, and we are inspired by Where She Came From.

Successive generations live with the past every day of their lives…it seems inevitable, and Epstein reinforces that theory through her writing. Epstein’s writing draws us in, and her memoir is intriguing, insightful and concise, but mainly it is extremely inspiring. In my opinion it is a must read for everyone, as its educational value is priceless.

Where She Came From is both compelling as a memoir and as a historical book. It is an incredible resource for schools, colleges, universities, and anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of life before, during and after the Holocaust.

I applaud Helen Epstein for such an exceptional read!

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Jewaicious Review – Prague : My Long Journey Home

Prague My Long Journey Home: A Memoir of Survival, Denial and Redemption by Charles Ota Heller, is an extremely well written and fascinating memoir, filled with so much historical information, on World War II Czechoslovakia, a large percentage of it new to me.

Heller’s memoir is filled with many emotions, from humor to sadness, longing and despair, love and loss, identity and denial, assimilation and religious views, written from his memories beginning with his childhood growing up under the shadows of war, and under the extreme changes occurring in his surroundings in Czechoslovakia. The country was war-torn in many aspects. Not only by the Nazis, but by other factions.

Heller’s father was Jewish, and his mother was Christian. This played a major role in his adolescence, and his ability to be able to survive the devastating events of the Holocaust. His mother tried to shield him as best as she could from the situations arising around them. He had little knowledge that over one dozen of his relatives were murdered in death camps.

Through Heller’s long journey, he not only rediscovered his roots, he discovered himself, parts of himself he avoided emotionally for decades. He was able to somewhat (not entirely) come to terms with his childhood situation, with the ravages of the Nazis, and with the fact that he was Jewish in a world that was filled with antisemitism.

I was impressed with Heller’s ability to stand firm and look at the positive aspects of his life, within the many tragedies that took place throughout the years. He found humor in small things, in the minute details others might not think of. I admire his mode of getting through the horrific situations forced upon him and his family, and the devastation that was thrust upon them.

They eventually emigrated to America, where Heller still resides, with his wife.

Prague: My Long Journey home is a book infused with memories, a memoir that is a study in repression and denial, change and the immigrant experience. It touches on so many psychological facets that Heller is still trying to deal with, decades later.

I recommend Prague: My Long Journey Home, to everyone. It is a compelling memoir which significantly touches not only on time and place, but on historical events with poignancy, humor, matter-of-fact prose, and with enlightening visuals of his life during the war, and his emigration to America and assimilation within a new environment. It leaves the reader with much to ponder.

I want to thank Charles Ota Heller and Abbott Press for the review copy. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to read it.

April 8, 2012 – 16 Nisan, 5772

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Jewaicious Review – Who Shall Live: The Wilhelm Bachner Story

Samuel Oliner and Kathleen Lee have have written a compelling and important book regarding the Holocaust. The details in Who Shall Live: The Wilhelm Bachner Story, were obtained from first-hand accounts, beginning with the account of Wilhelm Bachner, a Polish Jew.

Bachner managed to gain a job with a German architectural company by posing as an Aryan. With an engineering degree from a German university and the ability to speak flawless German he was hired to headed a group of construction workers. This afforded him a pass by which he could leave and reenter the Warsaw ghetto at the close of the workday to be with his wife and extended family.

During his employment with the architectural firm, he was able to rescue dozens of Polish Jews by having them pose as Aryans, and by giving them false work permits, false identity papers and and other false identifying documents. He hired some as construction workers, working in the very company he worked in, some he gave clerical jobs to, and others he found work for in other capacities. He also managed to hide others with reputable and trustworthy individuals.

Bachner’s fierce determination and courage saw him through the most adverse of situations, and he never waivered when he saw an opportunity to save a Jew. There were times when his very existence and identity were questioned, but with his strong will he learned to be assertive, almost aggressive, with the SS and other members of the military under Hitler’s command. His identity papers, his university degree, individual Germans who verbally vouched for him, and the fact that the company he worked for was important to Hitler’s cause, saw him through the worst of times.

He and his wife managed to emigrate to California in 1951. His story is told through interviews given by him before he died in 1991, and by interviews with relatives. Interviews were also provided by surviving Jews that he saved, and through their family members. Documents were photographed from archives, and research was painstakingly done in archives.

Samuel Oliner and Kathleen Lee left no stone unturned in telling the story of Bachner, along with the story of his family members. The dozens of Jews he rescued were more than willing to tell the story of how Wilhelm Bachner was the primary force in their survival.

The historical value behind Who Shall Live: The Wilhelm Bachner Story is extremely important, as it focuses on the fact that there was Jewish resistance to the horrific events that unfolded during the Holocaust. In my opinion Who Shall Live: The Wilhelm Bachner Story belongs in every public library, every college and university library, and every personal library. It’s importance as a historical telling can not be emphasized enough.

I personally own and have read this book…three times.

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March 15, 2012 – 21 Adar I, 5772

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Jewaicious Review – The Black Seasons

   The Black Seasons by Michal Glowinski is a poignant rendering of portions of Glowinski’s childhood memories from the Warsaw Ghetto to his life while hiding from the Nazis, to being rescued by Catholic nuns and becoming a Holocaust Survivor.

The word drifted into my ears as people around me deliberated: will they lock us in the ghetto or not? I didn’t know what this word meant, yet I realized that it was connected with moving; I sensed that it was something adults were speaking of with fear, but to me it seemed that moving would be an interesting adventure.

Glowinski writes with visual descriptives so vivid and clear that one can almost feel them and inhale the scents of ghetto life. The struggles of daily existence within the confines allocated to the Jewish people is written with deep clarity. The Black Seasons might seem disjointed at times, but that is due to the fact that events are remembered in that fashion.

Can one fault Glowinski for writing in such a manner? No, not in my opinion! One is transported by the word-paintings. The canvas and back drop are not pretty.

The Black Seasons is painterly, the horror well-articulated by Glowinski, and he documents his accounts of  fear and anxiety in fragments, remembered through a young boy’s pieces of visual and emotional memory. Glowinski brings us insight into the human condition of the Jewish family unit during the Holocaust. Glowinski illuminates within us the fact that life is fragile. Combining the transition from childhood to adulthood, Michal Glowinski manages to transport us through history and time, effectively, brilliantly and with skillful writing. I highly recommend The Black Seasons. It belongs in every school library, college and university library, and on your own book shelf.

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Holocaust/Genocide, Judaism, Memoirs