This is an amazing book. It is a heart-pounding thriller that kept my heart in my throat. For anyone who denies that the Holocaust happened, the details provided will (hopefully) wash away those doubts. The information provided is so granular that it’s as if the reader was there.
What I really liked about it was that it represented Vrba as a full human being, warts and all. For all of his heroism during the war, his life in the post-war years was complicated and far from easy.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World is available wherever books are sold.
For most of the world, Auschwitz is the most well known of the Nazi death camps. Millions of people were starved, tortured, and murdered simply because of who they were.
But the residents this unfortunately infamous town know it as Oswiecim.
Recently, Israeli Ice Hockey star Eliezer Sherbatov signed on to play for Unia Oswiecim. Unia Oswiecim is the local hockey team for Osweicim. The reaction to his decision was both positive and negative, depending upon who one spoke to.
Defending his choice, Sherbatov stated the following:
“I tell them, what happened 80 years ago will never be forgotten. That’s why, 80 years later, I want to show young people that they should be proud of their heritage and that now anything is possible.”
I agree with him. Though I fully understand the criticism, I feel like this is a sign of hope and the ability to triumph over tragedy. While the we must never forget what happened with the borders of the death camp, we must also live. The fact that the Jews and Judaism is alive and thriving nearly 100 years later is sweet revenge on it’s own.
While we cannot go back in time and change history, we can remember those who were taken from us. Eliezer Sherbatov joining Unia Oswiecim is in itself a memorial to those who were murdered and a reminder that love and humanity still exist.
When we are hurt by someone, the question of whether we are able to forgive and forget often comes up once everything calms dawn.
In Hamburg, former Concentration Camp guard Bruno Dey was brought to trial as one of those responsible for the murders of innocents at the Stutthof concentration camp. His fate will be decided on Thursday.
Some might argue that he has age in his favor. At the age of 93, even if he is sent to jail, Mr. Dey’s proposed three prison sentence will be short. He was also a young man during World War II, perhaps unable to fully comprehend his assignment.
However, that does not give him a free pass to live out whatever years he has left on Earth. He is still, in his own small way responsible for the murders of the innocent people who died in front of him.
I have often spoken on this blog of my immigrant ancestors and their loved ones who were murdered just for being Jewish. As much as I would love to say that this case is black and white, it isn’t. There are too many factors involved to declare it to be easily won either way.
But there is one bright spot. If he can say “never again”, then perhaps the world has a chance of finally learning from the past.
In a certain sense, humans are stupid creatures. We are well aware of the failures that exist in our collective history. But instead of learning from those mistakes, we make them again and again.
Earlier in this week, a pro-Palestinian rally in Belgium turned antisemitic. Which should be a surprise no one.
Back in November of 1961, The Twilight Zone aired an episode called Death’s-Head Revisited. The premise of the episode is as follows: a former SS officer smugly decides to visit Dachau, where he was responsible for the deaths of innocents. To say that he receives his comeuppance is an understatement.
To those who would deny the Holocaust or advocate for the murder of Jews today, I would recommend that they be dropped into Auschwitz (or any concentration camp) for the night. Let the ghosts of those murdered teach them a lesson they will never forget.
During war, especially when one is forced to live under the thumb of an enemy invading army, its easy to give in and give up.
Its difficult, dangerous and potentially life threatening to fight against this enemy invading army. But for some, it is the only thing they can do.
In 1943, as the Nazis were getting ready to “liquidate” the surviving Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Their destination was the death camps and concentration camps. Yesterday was the 77th anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
For nearly a month, Jewish fighters held out against their captors using whatever tools they had at their disposal. Though few survived the battle and even fewer survived the war, their legacy lives on. They knew that they had no chance of winning, but even the smallest dent in the fight for life and freedom was worth the cost.
77 years later, we remember the martyrs. We remember their bravery and their courage in the face of unspeakable horrors.
Tomorrow is Yom Hashoah. We remember the millions of lives lost and honor those who survived. Though we are facing a worldwide pandemic via Covid-19, the lessons from the Holocaust are as relevant today as they were nearly 80 years ago.
The Holocaust is one of the seminal events of recent human history. The persecution, starvation, torture, forced slaved labor and murder of six million European Jews is the hallmark of the inhumanity we often force on our fellow human beings.
Recently, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made some comments in which she compared immigrants held by border control to the victims of the Nazi concentration camp. The response to her comparison has come fast and furious.
As a Jew and an a descendant of Holocaust victims, I think that her comments are on target. While the immigrants in these facilities are not being tortured, starved, forced into slavery or systematically murdered, they are being treated as less than human.
In the eyes of the current administration, they are the other. They are bad, they are evil and they are the cause of our problems. They do not deserve the opportunity to become Americans and add to the wonderful interwoven fabric of our country.
This is what she is saying and unfortunately, many who are responding are not listening.
Yesterday, November 9th and today, November 10th is the anniversary of Kristallnacht. Translated into “Night Of The Broken Glass” Jewish owned businesses, buildings,homes and synagogues were destroyed. Innocent Jewish civilians were murdered or arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps.
Kristallnacht was the beginning of the Holocaust. By the time World War II ended 7 years later, six million Jews were murdered, along with five million others who were deemed as “subhuman” by the Nazis and their supporters.
Unfortunately, this sentiment is not a new one, especially in America today. We have a President who is silently condoning the views and actions of the far right and the hate groups who in the past, have been forced into the shadows of our culture. If he had his way, immigrants, especially immigrants of color would be deported. Transgender troops who put the lives on the line for this country would be forced out of the military. The Press, as we know it to be, would be destroyed except for a few television channels and publications who mindlessly agree with him. It is a figurative Reichstag fire that has the potential to destroy our democracy and everything that we as Americans hold dear.
If we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it. While Donald Trump is not a mirror of Hitler, there are signs and red flags that cannot be ignored. If we ignore them, we do so at our own peril.
Dr. Edith Eva Eger has a unique take on grief and dealing with the emotional trauma. A survivor of Auschwitz and The Holocaust, her experience during World War II gives her an insight as how to deal and move on from grief and trauma.
She has chronicles her experiences in a book entitled, The Choice: Embrace the Possible. At the outset of World War II, Dr. Eger was a young woman from a Jewish family living in Hungary. By the time the war was over, Dr. Eger was a survivor of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. While she and her sisters were lucky enough to survive, the rest of their family perished. After the war, she married, had three children, became a refugee from Soviet controlled Hungary and emigrated to America, where she eventually received her doctorate in psychology.
Among memoirs by Holocaust survivors, this book stands out. While it is about Dr. Eger’s story, it is about much more than that. It is about how we can face our demons and traumas, whatever form they take and find the inner peace that we are yearning for.
The Holocaust, like all massacres of an ethnic or religious minority did not start off with concentration camps and gas chambers. It started with words. It started with the dehumanization of Jews and other minorities. That led to political and social disenfranchisement, which directly led to the concentration camps and gas chambers.
After World War II, the common phrase was “never again”. Never again will we stand by as our fellow human beings are slaughtered simply for being who they are. Never again will we let a government openly persecute and slaughter our fellow citizens because they belong to a different faith or their heritage is different from ours.
Never again has become a hollow statement that often used, but rarely acted upon.
In Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslim minority is being massacred en masse by the government. Their only crime, like all of victims of ethnic cleansing, was being who they are.
Perhaps instead of never again, we should simply say again, because ethnic cleansing has happened multiple times since 1945 and we simply continue not to care.
Today is the 70th anniversary of the discovery of secret annex. Anne Frank , an ordinary teenage girl was hiding in the annex with her family and several others. They were sent arrested and deported to concentration camps. Otto Frank, Anne’s father was only one to survive and live to old age.
This girl was a remarkable writer. Her thoughts and feelings documented in her diary are so ordinary in the life of a teenage girl. Yet her words are so extraordinary because they were in hiding. I keep imagining what kind of stories and characters she might have introduced the world to, had she survived. Some writers are lucky enough to have a gift for writing that is obvious at a young age. Anne was one of those writers. But we will never know what kind of writer she would have become as an adult.