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Into the Forest–A Holocaust Story of Survival, Triumph, and Love
Into the Forest
by Rebecca Frankel
So many books have been written about World War II and, more recently, about the Nazi treatment of Polish Jews. Rebecca Frankel adds Into the Forest to the collection. It is nonfiction that in many parts the reader would wish it to be fiction, that the torture, annihilation, and deprivation should not really have happened. It is the story of the Rabinowitz family, of the many Jews who died, of the love that persisted through two years of living on the move in the cold forests, of digging holes in the ground to hide from Nazis. It is the story of survival, of triumph as the lives of some of the people in the book intersect years and thousands of miles later.
This book was emotionally difficult to read, knowing it is nonfiction, and thus was a slow read for me. The author knew first hand some of the people she wrote about. She spent five years researching and interviewing. There is a huge section of copious notes detailing where her information came from for each chapter.
The Prologue ties the tale together and is worth rereading at the conclusion of the book. There are two chapters that set the stage of what life was like in the little Polish village of Zhetel before the invasion of the Russians, followed by the occupation of the Germans. Then the focus lands on the German-created Jewish Ghetto, the Polish Resistance, and the various “selections” in which laborers and those destined for the mass graves were chosen. The “lucky” escaped to a huge forest, but many died there as hunted animals before the liberation came. The Rabinowitz family had their eyes set on a future in Palestine, but they had many more moves in their future and were caught up in the growing prosperity of the 1950’s. Into the Forest is a challenging book worth reading. It shows Jewish life and customs in the midst of both tribulation and good times. The book thankfully ends on positivity as the author stresses the various types of love woven into the book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: History, Nonfiction, Memoir
Publication: September 7, 2021—St. Martin’s Press
The forest, however, would not be exempt from the war’s brutalities or the bare-knuckled survival required to endure it. Nor would it provide ample shield for the Jews or the partisans—Russian and Jewish alike—who had taken shelter here and set up their outposts in its wilds, no matter how dark or deep. The farther they went and the safer they were, the more determined their killers became to root them out.
In some areas, the advertised reward for information on the partisans or hiding Jews was a single cup of sugar. Which was either a reflection of the paltry value of a Jewish life, or the peasants’ depth of desperation.
But Moscow’s successful onslaught had made the retreating Nazis more dangerous and, however unimaginably, even more murderous. Himmler issued an order to those in the path of the fast-moving Soviet troops: destroy all evidence.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz–tribute to human resilience and the power of love
The Tattooist of Auschwitz
by Heather Morris
When a book reads like fiction but is a union of memories and history, it is literary work that is destined to engage and move the reader. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is such a tale, related by Lale Sokolov to Heather Morris over a three year period. It is a horrific story of desperation in the worst of circumstances and of Lale’s confidence that he would survive and marry his beloved fellow sufferer Gita.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz displays the best and worst of mankind. It shows the incredible resilience of the human spirit. Throughout, the reader witnesses people doing whatever it takes to survive as does Lale who is innovative, multilingual, charming, and determined that in the end his tormentors would not get the best of him. There are many books written about the Holocaust. Each addresses the events from a different perspective. This is another valuable contribution, adding to our understanding and reinforcing the sentiment of “never again.”
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bonnier Zaffire for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction
Notes: Despite the nature of the events being retold, the writing has a respectful tone without graphic descriptions of violence or swearing. I highly recommend this book.
Publication: January 11, 2018—Bonnier Zaffire
Lale has witnessed an unimaginable act. He staggers to his feet, standing on the threshold of hell, an inferno of feelings raging inside him.
How can a race spread out across multiple countries be considered a threat?
“I know it’s a strange thing for me to say, but you will honor them by staying alive, surviving this place and telling the world what happened here.”
He knows they will never grow to be the women they were meant to be. Their futures have been derailed and there will be no getting back on the same track. The visions they once had of themselves, as daughters, sisters, wives and mothers, workers, travelers, and lovers, will forever be tainted by what they’ve witnessed and endured.
We Were the Lucky Ones–Jewish Family in Poland, WWII
We Were the Lucky Ones
by Georgia Hunter
We Were the Lucky Ones tells the story of a family of Polish Jews during what was arguably the most difficult time for Jews in European history. This work of historical fiction is written by Georgia Hunter, a descendant who spent years researching, traveling, and interviewing family members to uncover this amazing story of rare survivors. As the author notes, “By the end of the Holocaust, 90 percent of Poland’s three million Jews were annihilated; of the more than thirty thousand Jews who lived in Radom, fewer than three hundred survived.” Although it is fiction, it has been closely based on facts. The author also intersperses short paragraphs summarizing the historical events of World War II as they relate to this family and notes at the beginning of each chapter the date and location of the events in that section. We Were the Lucky Ones begins in March 1939 and concludes in 1947.
The novel moves through history by telling the story of each family member at various times through an excruciating eight year period. Some experience prison and the torture of interrogation; others endure Siberian work camps, life in a Polish ghetto, extermination by pogrom. The family members are subjected to various extremeties: death, disease, starvation, persecution, betrayal. Through all of these trials, one of their greatest pains is not knowing the fate of their loved ones. A constant theme is their unending love of family.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to the Penguin Group (Viking) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
Publication: February 14, 2017–Penguin Group (Viking)
But after a few days, they found they had little left to talk about. The chatter ceased and a funerary silence settled upon the train car, like ash over a dying fire. Some wept, but most slept or simply sat quietly, withdrawing deeper into themselves, encumbered by the fear of the unknown, the reality that wherever they were being sent, it was far, far away from home.
And suddenly, the consequences of this war were undeniably real–an understanding that sent Halina spiraling as she wrestled with the knowledge she both feared and loathed: she was powerless.
Nechuma used to reassure herself that they had lived through pogroms before, that in time, the fighting, the bloodshed would pass. But with the news from Lodz she’s come to understand that the situation they are in now is something entirely different. This isn’t just being subjected to profound hunger and poverty. This isn’t persecution. This is extermination.