Monday, January 18, 2010

Elly: My True Story of the Holocaust

Elly: My True Story of the Holocaust by Elly Berkovits Gross is a different sort of Holocaust narrative. The main body of the book is written in short, repetitive chapters. As I first read the book, I was mystified by reading the same story and words over and over. Then I decided to think about it a little more and realized that the chapters were like memories. When I think about something that might have been disconcerting to me, the memories of the event come back to me in waves. And certainly, anything I might have been through is nothing compared to the experiences of the author. Thinking about how memories are manifested, I read many of the chapters again. I realized that the repetitive parts were the hard parts, the parts most difficult to remember yet impossible to forget. Perhaps this is the power of this narrative.

Elly lived in Hungary and while before the war she felt the sadness of anti-Semitism, she and her family were not moved into the ghetto and camps until 1944. The most difficult memory for Elly is her arrival at Auschwitz when she was sent one direction while her mother and brother were sent the other direction. She never saw them again. Guilt and sadness have followed Elly through liberation, immigration and her life. Why did she live? Why did she not call to her mother to join her on the other side? Elly was liberated from the camps on April 14, 1945.

At the end of her narrative, the author includes her works of poetry and an afterword written by her daughter. Although the book was only recently published, the author has shared her story with 60 Minutes and Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation Institute.

In the author's final note, she tells us why she wrote her book:

We hope for a better world. People should live in peace and harmony; there shouldn't be bloodshed between nations. It is very sad that innocents, especially children, suffer because of war. People must learn that hatred and prejudice create only destruction; at the end, there are no winners, only losers. I hope people will take my message to heart.

As I read each Holocaust narrative, it is hope which comes through so strongly that it changes my soul. I wonder what more has to happen for people to learn Elly's lesson?

Scholastic Books provides a Book Talk for Elly.

TITLE: Elly: My True Story of the Holocaust
AUTHOR: Elly Berkovits Gross
PAGES: 125
TYPE: non-fiction, Holocaust narrative
RECOMMEND: I really liked this book and it made me think about how memories are reconstructed and the power of writing these memories down for others to consider in their own lives.

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