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review 2018-05-09 21:40
The Librarian of Auschwitz - Antonio G. Iturbe,Lilit Zekulin Thwaites
THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ by Antonio Iturbe, translation by Lilit Thwaites
 
I wanted to love this book. It is the true story of a 13 year old girl, imprisoned at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, who protects the few books that have been smuggled into the camp.
 
The infamous Doctor Mengle and other well-known Nazis and Resistance workers play supporting roles in what should have been a fascinating and terrifying look at man’s inhumanity to man. Instead it is almost boring.
 
The writing is flat, perhaps a problem with the translation. The characters have no life to them and so the reader is not engaged.
 
Well researched, with a postscript and “what happened to them” appendix that gives the reader the results of the bravery of the resistance workers and prisoners and the cruelty of the Nazis, the book could be a source for history buffs and casual readers.
 
However, as it intended for young adults, the book simply cannot be recommended because of the uninteresting writing. 2 of 5 stars

 

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review 2018-04-15 20:34
A Lucky Child (A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy)
A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy - Thomas Buergenthal,Elie Wiesel

For being about the horrors of Nazi occupation of Europe and the Holocaust, this wasn't a difficult  read. The author, Thomas Buergenthal, writes about his childhood in an approachable manner. It probably helps that he's writing it several decades after the fact - the pain and anger he would have felt during and immediately after the events have had time to heal. It's light on details of the day-to-day activities of those years, as he and his family were first on the run from Germans, then living in the Jewish ghetto in Poland, then the various concentration camps he was imprisoned in. As a result, it glosses over a lot of the horrors, focusing instead on events that stick out to him most - but those events are rather harrowing in themselves. He doesn't linger on them though. Some might find this lack of detail frustrating, others may be relieved. I've read other accounts of the Holocaust, most memorably Elie Wiesel's Night, so I was able to fill in what wasn't there. 

 

This felt like a very honest and intimate account of his days surviving WWII and the Holocaust. His writing here is flowing and stark, and he doesn't get bogged down with unnecessary repetition like last few autobiographies I've read. He was indeed a "lucky" child to survive Dr. Mengele and Auschwitz. Speaking of Night, they were both clearly in Auschwitz at the same time, as they both describe the Death March with the same sort of dreadful resignation. He was lucky many other times in order to survive, and that continues even after his liberation as he details how he was eventually reunited with his mother.

 

One cannot stress enough how important this time period was to the shaping of the world as it is today and why it's necessary that it continue to be taught in our schools. Buergenthal's work in international humanitarian law is inspirational and reminds us that, no matter how bleak things can still appear, there is hope for improvement and that things already have improved in many places. We can make the world a better place, but we can only do that by remembering the atrocities that came before and striving not to repeat them.

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review 2018-03-24 23:34
The Tattooist of Auschwitz
The Tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris
They stood in a line for it was their only means of escape. Those that didn’t make the line, their fate was sealed. There were rules for those who stood in line and rules for those who processed these selected few. The room was quiet as these individuals stood waiting for their turn in front of the official table. The tattooist looked at each wrist and at the new number which would become the new identity of the individual who stood standing in front of him and he would begin his job of scratching the wrist of Auschwitz’s newest prisoner. There would be no eye contact and no words spoken. Wrist, number and scratching; all day long until the last person in the line was marked.
 
Papan chose Lale to assist him. Papan needed to move the line along quicker so he asked the guard if he could get an assistant. Lale was hesitate to accept the position as he didn’t want to cause any more pain to the prisoners. Papan chose Lale because he knew Lale had a soul and would cause the prisoners less pain. When children and women began to join the line, Lale discomfort grew even more. One day, Papan doesn’t show up for work and Lale becomes the head Tattooist. This responsibility comes with benefits and the considerate and clever Lale immediately jumps into action. This respectable responsibility comes with extra rations, nice sleeping quarters, and others within the camp respect him more even though he is still a prisoner. Lale immediately asks for a assistant and Leon is assigned the position. Lale takes chances, he takes risks that are for the benefits of other prisoners and for himself. I feared for the day that Lale’s actions would be discovered but, in the meantime, I was cheering him on. There were a few close calls and things gets dicey but to Lale, it is all worth it and he gets dangerous. It becomes a business affair to Lale, a trade, and his job becomes a front, as he tries to make life inside the prison camp tolerable to those who matter to him.
 
I liked the idea of the novel, I like how Lale used his position to benefit others and himself and to make the life inside the death camp bearable. I enjoyed the relationships in this novel especially the one that Lale had with his guard and the one that he had with his girlfriend. I really enjoyed this story and highly recommend it if you enjoy reading novels based on this time period.
 
I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Bonnier Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

 

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review 2018-03-12 14:27
The Librarian of Auschwitz / Antonio Iturbe
The Librarian of Auschwitz - Antonio G. Iturbe,Lilit Zekulin Thwaites

Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.

 

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, but I must admit that I was hoping for more. The story itself is fascinating and that’s what kept me reading. The writing was pedestrian, which was a disappointment. Still, I would recommend the book to those looking for an inspirational story concerning Auschwitz.

The narrative closely follows Dita Kraus, a 14 year old girl in the Auschwitz family camp and her experiences as the keeper and protector of eight forbidden books. I was interested that one of them was a history text by H.G. Wells, as I have been cataloguing a large collection of Wells’ writing during my work hours. I was also glad to see that they had several people that they designated as “living books” because they could tell certain stories (one woman could recount The Count of Monte Cristo). The concept of living books has recently been used at our city’s public library, so I was thrilled to see an example of the history of the practice.

If this time period and setting are interests of yours, I would recommend this book.

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text 2018-03-09 16:22
Next books due at the library
The Librarian of Auschwitz - Antonio G. Iturbe,Lilit Zekulin Thwaites
Dunbar - Edward St. Aubyn
Victoria And Abdul: The True Story Of The Queens' Closest Confidant - Shrabani Basu
Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World - Noah Strycker

I'm over halfway through The Librarian of Auschwitz, so will finish it this weekend without fail.  The story is fascinating, though the writing is pedestrian.

 

Dunbar is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, the retelling of King Lear.  I'll at least make a start on it over the weekend.

 

Looking ahead, I'll hope to start Victoria & Abdul.  I saw the movie version last year and really enjoyed it. 

 

And, as temperatures here finally begin to warm up to the freezing point (we may get to +3 C today), I'm getting the itch to go birding.  Hence Birding Without Borders to get me fired up for the new birding year.

 

Have a fabulous weekend, friends!

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