BOOK #: 9
REASON READ: arc/are, ARC Reading Challenge, 100+ Challenge
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown and Company
GENRE: Nonfiction, Memoir, History, Jewish Culture, War
RATING: 4.5 Stars
The story of Thomas Buergenthal's childhood is one that will be surprising, surreal, and a tearjerker.
Thomas was a young boy of six when he and his parents were forced into a Jewish ghetto in Poland. Thomas watched as German soldiers came and took men and community leaders away and noticed they never returned. He watched the raids from his window. He heard the whisperings of his parents about the newest developments.
The family stayed in the ghetto for a couple of years and then worked in labor camps for a couple of years before they were sent to Auschwitz. Thomas was separated from his parents so the ten-year-old "lucky child", as the fortune-teller told his mother many years ago that he was, used his wits and charm, as well as some luck, and managed to survive Auschwitz. By some stroke of luck, after three years of many different adventures, Thomas was reunited with his mother and in 1951 he moved to America.
I liked the way Buergenthal wrote his story. I liked his choices of anecdotes. I liked his use of clever phrases and carefully selected adjectives and adverbs. I liked that there were photos of him and his parents, he as a small boy, and then later, after Auschwitz.
I was very touched by his movement and determination to spread the word about human rights violations. He is now a judge at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Even though I know children are very resilient, I was still stunned by this child's resilience in the face of such adversity and horror. He witnessed things no person, let alone a child, should ever have to witness.
While The Diary of Anne Frank is a wonderful story about the discrimination and hatred of the Jewish people and what hiding out for years to escape death was like during WWII, Buergenthal's story is told from right there in the thick of everything. He was not hidden, he was there in the camps. He was there escaping the gas chambers only to bear witness to horrible beatings, hangings, and shootings. I think that this book could seriously be the next great book about the Holocaust. I highly recommend it.
Some passages from the book:
"Every so often, we heard that this or that community leader or some other person had been picked up by the Gestapo, never to be seen again. My father and mother would discuss these events in whispered tones. Then I would hear one of them say that the victims must have been denounced to the Gestapo by our own people and that one had to be very careful what one said and to whom. 'Yes, the walls have ears..."
"The bodies of the prisoners were left hanging for a few days near the entrance to the barrack as a warning against further escape attempts. There were to be other executions in Henrykow. As time went on, they became routine; but I remember only the first."
"While I do believe that I survived the Holocaust in order to devote my life to the protection of human rights, I believe that, having survived, I have an obligation to try to do all I can to spare others, wherever they might be, from suffering a fate similar to that of the victims of the Holocaust."
Other Reviews of A Lucky Child:
Rhapsody in Books
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