Tuesday, March 10, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: I Have Lived a Thousand Years

I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust
By Livia Bitton-Jackson
Copyright 1997
Simon & Shuster Children’s Press

What can be said about a provocative look at the Holocaust from the eyes of the 13-year-old girl who lived through it? Elli Friedman is 13 when she and her family are evicted from their homes and driven to a Jewish ghetto. From there, they are separated and she is imprisoned at Auschwitz with her mother. She is one of the “lucky” ones who has a family member with her, but as she watches death occurring all around her, the reader wonders if “lucky” is the right word. We are engaged with her day to day life as she eats her moldy bread and worm-ridden soup, as she endures the torment and tortures that occur each day, and as she watches those that are marched directly to the gas chamber. She watches and cares for her mother through injuries and illness. There is a point in the book where their roles are reversed and the daughter becomes the mother/caregiver. It creates an interesting dynamic.

The details in the book are difficult to read, but the reader is always hopeful, always anxious to see if she will make it through the day.

Somehow Elli survives and is liberated along with a small fraction of those that were taken. From her small town, there are 36 left from the 500 Jews who originally inhabited the town. She and her family members that are left make their way to America and start anew.

So here is my rant of the day. Whenever I read a book about the Holocaust, I am horrified at what was done to these families at the insistence of one deranged madman. This book is no different. How could anyone have stood by and watched it occur? How could the soldiers carry out their orders? How did anyone survive? We watch and we learn and pray these atrocities are not repeated again. But can we know? The German citizenry claimed to have no idea what Hitler was doing with the Jews. How easy was it for them to turn a blind eye?

This was a good read and not too graphic (it was written for a children’s press, after all). But still a difficult read. For someone who wants to read a heartrending personal account of the Holocaust, this is a good choice.

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