I recently read two very moving memoirs from the Holocaust: FAREWELL TO PRAGUE by Miriam Darvas (sent to me by the publisher) and OUTCRY: HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS by Manny Steinberg (which I got free on my kindle).
Both were amazing stories of strength and resiliency.
OUTCRY is Mendel (Manny) Steinberg’s story of his family’s experience. Manny and his brother Stanley clung to each other and kept each other going to survive the brutal conditions that they were forced to endure at Auschwitz and three other concentration camps. Their story is remarkable and a testament to their faith and strength. Honestly, when you read it, you can hardly imagine how anyone could endure what they did. OUTCRY is a short book and reads very quickly. It is published by Amsterdam Publishers.
FAREWELL TO PRAGUE was sent to me by the publishers (MP Publishing). This another short but unforgettable account of a young person surviving the war. Miriam’s father was Jewish and her mother German, but her father was quite outspoken against the Nazi’s. Her family sends her miles away to safety, but she travels alone and has to rely on her own wits and strengths and the kindness of strangers.Eventually she makes her way to Britain with other child refugees.
Since both of these novels were short, I read one on a Saturday and one on a Sunday. I have to say, it was a bit depressing when I was done with these books. I think I’m drawn to Holocaust stories because I am so amazed by the resiliency of the authors, and the incredible experiences they had – and how they can find kindness and goodness in the midst of so much depravity. These two stories were no different. I must be honest, though — I was making dinner Sunday night and looking at all our nice food and actually started crying thinking about Manny and his brother and how starved they were.
You can find both of these stories online at Amazon. As of this writing, FAREWELL was 99 cents and OUTCRY was free for Kindle Unlimited. Look for them at your favorite indie, too!
While at BEA, I met Susan Dworkin and got a signed copy of her book. The subtitle to this novel is “How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust”. This was a fascinating story about how Edith, a young Jewish woman in Vienna, survived WWII through an incredible series of circumstances, including, at one point, being married to a German officer and being a “hausfrau”.
Edith was born in Vienna in 1914 into a well-to-do and educated Jewish family. She always wanted to study law and was doing so when she was denied her final exams and degree because she was Jewish. She and her family were sent to the ghetto and then she was sent to a labor camp, working first on a farm and then in a paper factory. She survived harsh conditions for months, then escaped as she was being sent “home” (she realized it was to a concentration camp). Edith hid for a while, then borrowed a brave friend’s identity papers and went to Germany, getting a job at the Red Cross and passing herself off as Christian. There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi officer. He wanted to marry her, but Edith felt she must reveal her true self to him first. Vetter and she married and she lived as a housewife until the war was over. While this is much more a summary than I usually give, believe me, it’s only the tip of the iceberg in this book. The amount of scary circumstances, the coincidences, the heartfelt yearning she had for her mother, her life of living a lie – plus all the events post WWII, well it made for fascinating and inspiring reading.
The story reads as a memoir, with Edith’s voice strongly standing out. You can picture her telling her story to Ms. Dworkin as you read. It was published about 15 years ago, though I had never come across it. A documentary was also made on Edith’s life, but it looks like it only aired in the UK. Edith Hahn Beer died in 2009.
You can find this book at an Indie near you — I am an Indie Bound Affiliate. Read it and be inspired.
I recently was subbing in a nearby middle school and the students were reading MAUS by Art Spiegelman. I had never seen this book (though it won a Pulitzer and is widely known). After my day teaching, I found the book, THE COMPLETE MAUS, in the library so that I could continue the story. Maus is an early graphic novel (originally published in 1991). It is told entirely in comic strip form. The first part is “A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History” and leads up to Spiegelman’s parents being sent to Auschwitz, while the second part, “And Here My Troubles Began”, focuses on his father’s experience in the concentration camp and after the war for his parents.
MAUS depicts the story of Spiegelman’s father’s survival of the Holocaust in Europe, as he relays it to his son. A Polish Jew, Vladek Spiegelman marries his wife Anja and they are wealthy and successful business owners. WWII is creeping across Europe, however, and antisemitism is on the rise. Vladek relays when they first see a Nazi flag, when their first friends lose their businesses, when people begin to disappear. Slowly you see their world deteriorating, yet through it all, Vladek’s resiliency and resourcefulness shine through. He protects his wife first and foremost, and tries to save her parents as well. They have their young son go to live with friends so that he will be safe (he ends up dying though). Their main goal becomes to survive and make it through to the other side of WWII. The stories become more and more disturbing as the war progresses, and are made all the more disturbing as you know this is a true story.
I know I’m a little late to the party here as this book has been around for a while, but I am so thankful that I came across it and read it. Spiegelman’s depictions of the Nazi’s as cats and the Jews as mice is very clever (the Americans are dogs), and this book can be a great teaching tool in the classroom, particularly with older students. The graphic novel form makes it both easy to read and yet disturbing. Peppered throughout is Spiegelman’s own relationship with his father, especially in the second volume. You can see him trying to come to grips with their relationship, his father’s seemingly eccentric ways, and his father’s failing health, along with his mother’s death several years earlier. This was a touching and brilliant depiction of a Holocaust survivor which stayed with me long afterwards.
Highly recommended for this genre/time period! I got mine at the library.