Friday, December 11, 2009

I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up In The Holocaust

I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing up in the Holocaust by Livia Bitton-Jackson is her personal narrative of her life during the Holocaust. In the summer of 1943, Elli was thirteen years old and lived with her family in a small farming town near Budapest. The Jewish population was ordered to stop attending school or going about their daily business - they were to wear the yellow star. Finally in April 1944, Elli and her family were sent first to a ghetto and then to Auschwitz. After an awful time in the death camp, Elli and her mother were sent to Augsburg as part of a work force. Although the experience in Augsburg was better than the death camp, it was short and Elli and her mother were transported to Dachau where they were reunited with Elli's brother Bubi. Finally the family was liberated from cattle cars by the Americans on April 30, 1945. The soldier who spoke with Elli thought she was sixty-two years old when she was only fourteen. Elli writes, I am fourteen years old, and I have lived a thousand years. (p. 205) In 1951, the family immigrated to America.

Each Holocaust narrative has something special to give to the reader. In this case, I believe that Ms. Bitton-Jackson has answered a question I frequently hear - People ask why I am drawn so strongly to the Jewish experience during the Holocaust. In the foreward to her book, the author writes:

My hope is that learning about past evils will help us to avoid them in the future. My hope is that learning what horrors can result from prejudice and intolerance, we can cultivate a commitment to fight prejudice and intolerance. It is for this reason that I wrote my recollections of the horror. Only one who was there can truly tell the tale. And I was there. My stories are of gas chambers, shootings, electrified fences, torture, scorching sun, mental abuse, and constant threat of death. But they are also stories of faith, hope, triumph, and love. They are stories of perseverance, loyalty, courage in the face of overwhelming odds, and of never giving up. My story is my message: Never give up. (p. 11)

I think this is why I am drawn to the Holocaust narratives - the universal ideas of hope and survival, the intimate relationships that sustained people through horrible times.

TITLE: I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing up in the Holocaust
AUTHOR: Livia Bitton-Jackson
PAGES: 234
TYPE: non-fiction, Holocaust narrative
RECOMMEND: I think the author has shown a wide range of experiences during the later years of the war, from the ghetto to the transfer from camp to camp as the Allied forces came closer. Excellent book.

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