Monday, January 18, 2010

Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939 - 1944

Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944 by Aranka Siegal is an amazing story which completes the story of the Holocaust which began in Poland. The author's beautiful dedication sets the frame for her narrative: This book is dedicated to those who did not survive. They are deathless and timeless. Auschwitz could not sever the bonds of love and friendship which contributed to my survival and which will live within me to the end of my days.

The author, known as Piri in the book, lived in the area Hungarian town of Beregsaszy near the Ukraine. As the war began, 9 year old Piri was visiting her Grandmother in Komjaty in the Ukraine. She remained there as the Jews began to feel the restrictions throughout many parts of Europe. Piri was able to return to her home in 1941, but then was faced with curfews and even more restrictions. Ultimately Piri and her mother and siblings must move into a ghetto and finally to Auschwitz in May 1944. Piri and her sister Iboya were separated from their mother and other family members. They never saw them again. The girls worked in the kitchen at a munitions plant and were forced on a death march in early 1945 when the Russian army came closer. The girls were liberated on April 15, 1945. Piri immigrated to the United States in 1948. The author provides wonderful detail about each of the situations.

I found this book very informative and was drawn to the author's story for a number of reasons. When I completed my MA in History, my final paper was entitled Intimacy in the Holocaust Camps and looked at how friendship, love, forced relationships, false relationships, etc assisted the Jews prisoners in survival. This intimacy lies at the heart of Siegal's narrative. Additionally, I have a special place in my heart for the Hungarian Jews who were among the last to be rounded up in Hitler's final solution. These people could have been saved - by people, nations, religious figures, who knew that the Nazi machine was systematically murdering the Jews of Europe. I mean in no way to say the Hungarian Jews were more important - it should have been stopped from the beginning, but as an American and a Catholic, I still feel somewhat sad that nothing was done sooner.

The Book of Life has an interview with the author who discusses her books and her life. It is inspiring to hear her speak about her life. She has a number of other books which I plan to locate and read, including a sequel to this book, Grace in the Wilderness, After the Liberation 1945 - 1948.

TITLE: Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939 - 1944
AUTHOR: Aranka Siegal
PAGES: 214
TYPE: non-fiction, Holocaust narrative
RECOMMEND: This was an exceptional book in that it shows the progression of the Holocaust for the Hungarians who were among the last to be rounded up during the war. Excellent book.
AWARDS: 1982 Newbery Honor Book

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