Tag Archives: Holocaust Stories

Lorri M. Review: We Survived

we survived We Survived: Fourteen Stories of the Hidden and the Hunted in Nazi Germany, by Eric H.B oehm is a compelling and frank read depicting the deplorable acts thrust upon the Jewish people during World War II.

All of the fourteen stories are overwhelming, and are a critical and insightful look into survival and what one will do in order to thwart all attempts to be imprisoned in concentration camps or killed at the hands of the Nazis. The book depicts the darkness of the days and the living conditions the Jews faced in order to survive. It portrays the lives of those who opposed the Nazis and how they faced their own dilemmas and demise within a country environment of horrific and atrocious proportions. The ugliness and images within the pages conveys the magnitude and reality of the events that occurred, written soon after liberation, when memory was fresh.

The stories evoke an extremely horrific look at the events the individuals found themselves up against. Yet, they are also a humane and poignant perspective of humanity. We Survived is a book that offers hope and inspiration during the most darkest of times.

In my opinion, We Survived: Fourteen Stories of the Hidden and the Hunted in Nazi Germany, by Eric H. Boehm is a book of historical importance that documents the evil forced upon, the persecution of, and the fear of those whose stories are told. I highly recommend We Survived to everyone.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Non-Fiction, World War II

Review – The Journal of Helene Berr

   The Journal of Helene Berr, by Helene Berr, and translated by David Bellos is a compelling look at the events of WWII and the German occupation of Paris, that lead up to the deportation of Helene and her parents. It is the personal diary of Helene Berr, beginning April 7, 1942, and ending with the last entry on February 15, 1944. There is also a letter that Helene wrote to her sister, Denise, dated on the day of her (Helene’s) arrest, March 8, 1944.

What makes this a compelling diary is how 21-year old Helene presents the months and years to us, never truly expecting her diary to be published. She begins her diary with entries relating to her friends and their involvements with her, entries regarding her boyfriend Gerard. She also describes Paris as spring is approaching.  All this is written down during the German occupation, when Helene apparently felt she had the freedom to wander Paris and its surroundings, seemingly unaffected by what was happening around her. Her family was quite well off, and very respected.

Helene was extremely intelligent, talented and gifted, and sensitive. She studied Russian and English Literature at Sorbonne University.  She met and fell in love with Jean Morawiecki, and he returned her love. He eventually left to join the “Forces francaises libres, the armed forces of the Free French”. After he left, she stopped writing for almost one year, and began writing diary entries, again. From that point forward, she begins to slowly comprehend the forces that surround her.

Helene’s diary is dramatic in the sense that the first two months or so, deal with her inability to accept the fact that the persecution of Jews was occurring within her very world. She did not want to see the truth before her eyes, even when some of her friends were fleeing or escaping to the unoccupied zones of the south. The harshness and reality began to slowly settle in when she was forced to wear the yellow star.

Her friends and even family members tried to convince Helene and her parents to escape, but to no avail. They wanted to remain behind because they felt it was the courageous and moral thing to do. They were involved with the “Union Generale des Israelites de France (U.G.I.F.)”, and in helping to save Jewish children, and the thought of leaving behind the children that so depended on them was unacceptable in their minds. They had strong ethical beliefs. They were firm in their conviction to remain in Paris. Helene begins to write about the realities and actualities of events, without sugar-coating them. She wants to document what is happening all around her, and what she has learned.

And, document she does, and then gives the pages of her diary to the family cook, Andre Bardiau, to save for her, in case she survives. In the event she doesn’t, she wanted him to give the diary to Jean Morawiecki. Helene’s wishes were followed, and her diary was given to Jean Morawiecki, after she died in April 1945, in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp five days before its liberation. Jean Morawiecki eventually gave the diary to Mariette Job, Helen’s niece. From there, Mariette Job decided the journal should be printed in book form.

That one young woman was able to pen the unfolding events of the German occupation of Paris, while she was literally within its stronghold is overwhelming to me. In my opinion, it is a story not to be missed. The Journal of Helene Berr belongs in every educational library, and in my opinion, all personal libraries.

I personally own and have read this book.

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© Copyright 2007 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Holocaust/Genocide, Judaism, Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Review – Fugitive Pieces

  Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels is more than a novel based on the Holocaust, it is a poetically-rendered geological metaphor for the power of loss and love, memory and place. Human history is woven within the bogs and peat of the past and present, as both are intertwined within the beautifully written stories.

Yes, stories. Fugitive Pieces has two narrators…one for the first two-thirds of the book, one for the last third. The transition from one narrator (Jakob) to the next (Ben) might seem awkward for some, but I found it to be a brilliant method of bringing two men from two different generations together within the whole of the novel. The layers of their lives read like an archaeological dig, through the muck and mire of the Holocaust.

Our first narratorJakob witnessed the horror of war at a young age, listening from within a cupboard, as his parents were being murdered and his sister being taken away by the Nazis. “The burst door.  Wood ripped from hinges, cracking like ice under the shouts.  Noises never heard before, torn from my father’s mouth.  Then silence.“  In order to survive, he becomes a fugitive of sorts, and he hides himself in the bogs and peat of the forest, burying himself underground, burying pieces of his past with him. He is like an organism, living for a day here, a day there within the bog, surviving as an organism or parasite, living off of the peat. Along comes Athos, a Greek geologist, who finds Jakob barely able to breathe, and brings Jakob to live with him in Greece. Athos is like a father to Jakob, and raises him like he is his own son.

Yet, all the fatherly affection and love can’t bring Jakob peace from the emotional past he is fleeing. He is like a piece of wood loosened from a desk, separated from the entirety. He dreams of his sister, Bella, in order to survive. He must have some hope, and she is his inspiration. Jakob physically matures into a young man. He becomes a poet, a writer, a translator, trying to find his way in a world of loss and sadness. He is stuck in that layer of time that has yet to be dug out.

Meanwhile, Ben looks to Jakob as a mentor. He too is a survivor. A survivor of his parents (Holocaust Survivors) and their daily nightmares, fears and eccentricities.

Michaels writes with flair and frankness, beauty and poignancy, and weaves the novel with brilliance.  Her naming each chapter is a definite foreshadowing of events and illuminations to follow.  I find her title to the book to be very revealing, if taken literally.  The transitory factor is ephemral, as parts of the whole are often short-lived, and characters, like Bella, Jakob and Ben are fugacious and unable to blossom to their full potential. Jakob is much like an organism in the geological scheme of things, in the sense he can’t let go of the past. Ben is in the same emotional situation within his family unit. Both of them have trouble with relationships, each relationship a small piece of the stepping stone to fulfillment and contentment.

Fugitive Pieces is an important story, in my opinion, not for historical fact, not for Holocaust history, but for its layers of humanity, humaneness, and the bogs of emotional pain and dust that are eventually swept away through time and love.
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© Copyright 2007 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my expresss written consent/permission.

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Holocaust/Genocide, Judaism, Non-Fiction, Novels