BOOKS / In Brief

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The Independent Culture
Breathe Deeply My Son by Henry Wermouth, Valentine Mitchell pounds 14.50. The title comes from the advice the author's father gave when they seemed destined for the Auschwitz gas chambers: 'Breathe deeply, my son, and get it over with . . .' . It might sound like the voice of resignation, but this book is an epic account of physical strength, low cunning, pluck, luck and an indomitable will to live. Wermouth was born in Germany but his parents were Polish and in October 1938 they were deported. His mother and sister perished in Bochnia. He and his father survived Plaszow and Auschwitz, and they kept telling themselves if things got no worse they would manage. But things did get worse, even after Auschwitz, when they were harried back and forward across the face of Germany, and Wermouth's father died after a vicious beating from a kapo. Eight days later the war ended.

Perpetrators Victims Bystanders by Raul Hilberg, Lime Tree pounds 20. One might have thought that Professor Hilberg, the author of a celebrated three-volume work on the Holocaust, had said everything there is to be said on the subject. This book does not add anything substantially new, and is more summary than indictment, but he does show how many of the bystanders remained bystanders not because they were indifferent to human suffering but because they could not believe in the ferocity and scale of the Nazi atrocities.

My Private War by Jacob Gerstenfield-Maltiel, Valentine Mitchell pounds 14.50. When the author told his brother how the Germans had hemmed 45,000 Jews into the Lvov ghetto and deprived them of food, his brother exclaimed: 'You're exaggerating] That's impossible] Why that would mean mass murder]' Jacob's father, mother and wife perished in the Lvov ghetto. He and others were ordered by the Germans to dig their own graves, but as the troops began firing he fainted and was left for dead. He eventually escaped to Romania where, after further adventures, he made his way through Turkey to Palestine. His book is not only a moving personal story but a detailed account of the martyrdom of the Lvov Jewish community.

There Is A Place On Earth by Giuliana Tedeschi, Lime Tree pounds 9.99. The author is Italian and was deported to Birkenau in April 1944 to serve in a labour battalion. Western Jews seem to have been treated less harshly than Polish ones, and women - at least able-bodied ones - less harshly than men. But people dropped like flies from exhaustion and hunger, and - though her 'literary', novelistic manner sometimes detracts from her credibility - Tedeschi describes with deep insight the gradual erosion of the feminine qualities in herself and the women around her.

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