This book, an autobiographical memoir told in first person narrative form gives us, the reader a vivid glimpse into the lives and thoughts of a boy coming into manhood during the infantile stages of the holocaust and throughout. This book tugged at my heart strings like no other in a very long time. A must-read!
The author, born in Slovakia in 1928, walks us through his eye witness testimony of how the holocaust sneakily came to be, from the eyes of a boy. He discusses watching Jewish businesses ‘Aryanised’ and how no-one really thought it would last long. That surely, someone will take this madman out of powerful position – it’s just a matter of time. I can easily see myself, naively assuming that relocation would be only temporary and that the whole of Europe could not possibly hate one culture so much as to see them utterly destroyed. Denial is a powerful thing, and it something one must take into account when reading this book!
Based in Slovakia, in the town of Presnov is where the beginning of this family’s story of degradation in the holocaust begins. The author, reminisces about the good times, his life milestones with which those he loves will not be able to repeat with any others. He writes about watching his sister and other dear relatives, leaving for Palestine to escape persecution. He also writes about relatives from Poland escaping to Slovakia to work in ‘Aryanised’ businesses – not knowing that the same grisly events were slowly unfolding in their own city of reprieve.
Amir explains to us the desperation of his father to become an ‘economically viable jew’ or Hospodarsky Zid in order to gain exemption status or the vynimka label so as not to be sent to the Poland ghettos – or worse. An economic jew being explained as one who had knowledge or a level of expertise that would be of economic benefit to the government. Even this label did not help much during the ’round-ups’ of 1942. Only hiding helped, and not with much success as many examples from the period have shown.
Giora Amir speaks with great relief and trepidation about the days leading up to May 8, 1945. The day Germany surrounded. Having been taken in by the Czechs during a surprising run-in, only some days before, Giora and his small group of refugees were finally the lucky ones – albeit in a world that still held a great amount of distain and few opportunities for the remaining Jewish populace.
The author, Giora Amir, takes great care to lay out a mapping of familial history, culture and business dealings in the beginning of this book. This serves well to bring a sense of humanness to the reader. Whereas it is normally easy to disassociate oneself from the characters in a book, it is not the case in this book. In this book, the reader feels closer to the characters and therefore experiences a larger sense of fear and empathy with the characters.
I very much appreciate the fact that this book is not just a first person eyewitness account of the the author. The author has taken great care to include letters and writings that he knew would never see the light of day otherwise – to give us, the reader, a clear vision of what life, death, sadness and suffering was like for all involved. These included testimonies also shed a dim light on the happenings, hidings, round-ups and battles from other areas and from different perspectives.
If you like The Diary of Anne Frank, you will love this book! I highly recommend this book for all ages! Keep a tissue handy though. This book can be found at amazon by clicking here. There are both Kindle and paperback editions.
Thanks for reading!
*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. This book tugged at my heart strings like no other in a very long time. A must-read!