Thursday, 3 May 2012

Book Review- Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Buccieri

Release date: October 15, 2009
Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Author: Eva Mozes Kor, Lisa Rojany Buccieri

Thank you to Net Galley and Tanglewood Press for providing this copy for review.

Eva Mozes Kor was 10 years old when she arrived in Auschwitz. While her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, she and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man known as the Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele. Mengele's twins were granted the privileges of keeping their own clothes and hair, but they were also subjected to sadistic medical experiments and forced to fight daily for their own survival, as most of the twins died as a result of the experiements or from the disease and hunger pervasive in the camp. In a narrative told with emotion and restraint, readers will learn of a child's endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil. The book also includes an epilogue on Eva's recovery from this experience and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis. Through her museum and her lectures, she has dedicated her life to giving testimony on the Holocaust, providing a message of hope for people who have suffered, and working toward goals of forgiveness, peace, and the elimination of hatred and prejudice in the world.

How does someone review a book like this and do it justice? How can I even attempt to explain the emotions I went through while reading this book?

All I can do is speak from my heart and hope that the words you read here are enough.

I don't speak of this often...Pretty much not at all, really. But for you to understand my review, I feel that I must give you a bit of background on me and my family.

You see, my mother and both of her parents, my grandparents, were born in Germany. My Nanny and Grandad grew up there during the second World War.
I don't know much since the subject was very rarely brought up, but I can tell you that my grandmother was often stopped in the street by the German SS and made to show her papers. You see, my Nanny has dark skin, and so she was often mistaken for a Jew.

My Grandad was very young during the war, but from what I've been told, he was made to join the German army at the age of 16. Whether he believed in what the Germans were fighting for or not, my Grandfather, because he was wearing a German uniform, was a Nazi.
Wow, that's the first time I've ever said that aloud.

He wasn't made to fight very long. He entered the war at its end and was taken as a POW by the Americans.
I think he was grateful for this, although I never heard him say so.

My grandparents came to Canada with my mother and my aunt in 1958, when my mother was only 4 years old.
She doesn't remember much of Germany. She was very young.
At 5 and 6 years old, even here in what's considered the most friendly country in the world, my mother was bullied and beaten daily by her Canadian classmates...because she was German. Because of what 'her' people did.

So, you see, because of my German half, and the fact that I AM a first-generation Canadian on my mother's side, I feel guilt. Literally an overwhelming, crushing guilt for what was done by people of my own heritage in WWII.

Does it matter that I wasn't even born yet? Does it matter that--as far as I know--no one in my family actually ever laid a hand on a Jew?
No. It doesn't. The fact that my background is the same as the monsters that almost wiped out whole races is enough.
And it's not just me who feels this. My mother, who wasn't even born yet, can't watch any type of war movie. She can't read any type of war book. The guilt is too much for her and she just refuses to put herself through that pain.

But me? Well, I'm apparently the exact opposite. I read everything I can get my hands on about the holocaust. I watch every war movie I come across.
I feel that to make up for the atrocities 'my' people performed, I must be as informed and as knowledgeable about the subject as I can. I must sob and cry and feel as much heartbreak and do my best to remember what every single Jewish person went through. I must NEVER, EVER forget what 'my' people did, and I must never, ever allow myself to let go of this guilt.
I OWE it to them--the dead and the survivors--to always remember.
To me, shutting it out and not allowing myself to feel this guilt would be the same as denying it ever happened.
Whether there's a heaven or not, I hope that, somewhere, wherever they are, they all know--every single one of the 6 million Jews--that I CARE. That I REMEMBER. That I KNOW. And that I'M sorry.

Many tears were shed while reading Mrs. Kor's words. It's written in such a way that you feel like you're sitting in her kitchen with her while she's telling you her story.
What was done to Mengele's twins do I put it into words? Disgusting? Atrocious? Heartbreaking?
All of the above and more.

I have so much respect for Mrs. Kor and what she's done with her life. She won't let people forget Mengele's twins--and that's as it should be.

This book is written in a way that middle graders will understand...but I implore you to read this TO your children.
By reading this with them, it gives them a chance to ask questions, and it gives YOU, the parent, a chance to explain.
It's OUR responsibility to teach our children about the holocaust. This book is one way of doing just that.

If we don't teach them, every single one of those 12 million deaths will have been for nothing.

If we allow them to forget....How can we prevent it from happening again?

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