Book Review

Holocaust Memoirs: Book Review

I recently finished reading Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz.  It’s the real-life story of Rena Kornreich and how she survived 3 years living the Auschwitz Death Camps.  It’s gruesome, shocking, and sad.

It should be required reading for anyone mature enough to handle it.  (Maybe as young as 17.)

In the last year or so, this is the third book that I’ve read pertaining to survivors of World War II.  All three books are worthy of your consideration and your library shelf.  I’ll list them below:

  1. Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz by Rena Kornreich
  2. The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer
  3. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

I’ll also mention that all 3 books are very complimentary.  Rena’s Promise chronicles the life of a young Jewish woman, bereft of faith, but suffering tremendously for it.  She certainly lived an active Jewish life prior to the war, living with her family, but at the death camps, and without blatantly stating it, she loses her faith.

In fact, one wonders if hate hasn’t crept into her heart as she participates in the beating of a superior.  Throughout her time in Auschwitz/Birkenau, she wonders, “Where did God go?”  She’s grappling with the question of a good God allowing evil.  And she has no answer.  She can only rely upon herself to survive, which she does against all odds.

It’s truly miraculous how she and her sister survive such torture.  (Note that I used the word “miraculous.”  She wouldn’t use that word.)

The second book on the list is one that I previously reviewed for these pages last year.  (Click HERE for it.)

The Nazi Officer’s Wife is also the story of how a young Jewish woman, Edith Hahn, survives the war, but her story is dramatically different than Rena’s.  Hahn does end up in labor camps, but then is able to hide and take on the identity of a gentile, thus avoiding the death camps.  Eventually she marries a German officer.

This book is so valuable for not only her personal story, but for a close look at the German Thing from the inside.  It’s so eerily close to what’s happening in our culture that it makes your skin crawl.

Since I am always interested in the question of Faith, I can’t help but compare Rena’s story to Edith’s.  Even though Edith does not practice her Jewish faith, she has more hope.  She notices something is missing.  Rena’s is much darker by contrast.

Lastly, I read a book called The Hiding Place a few months ago.

While I’d rate the previous two books as a 10, this book gets a 10+.

At the outset of World War II, Corrie Ten Boom was a middle-aged spinster, helping her father fix and sell watches in Holland.  They were devout Christians who helped Jews hide and escape, but the Ten Booms were eventually discovered by the Germans.  This book tells about the horrific (and heroic) suffering of Corrie, but more importantly, it shows her immense love of God in a dark, dark place.

This is the stuff of saints.  You need to read it.  In fact, you should read all 3.  Why?  Because if we don’t get it, then history will repeat itself.  This evil and tragic event has eternal consequences.  We cannot in fact understand who we are today, without understanding that horrible war–it’s beginnings and aftermath.  We are still suffering the consequences of those driving ideologies.

Final Question

Has anyone read any other good, first-hand accounts of Holocaust survivors?  I’m especially interested in the men.  What was their experience?

If you’ve read any, drop a line in the comments box.

Of course I have read Fr. Goldmann’s account of his miraculous survival in his book The Shadow of His Wings.  Truly, that book is one of the best books ever written, and by a Catholic priest serving in the SS no less!  I’d review it, but it’s been years since I’ve read it.  Probably many of you are already familiar with it?