Book Review: A Lucky Child

A Lucky Child:  A Memoir Of Surviving Auschwitz As A Young Boy, by Thomas Buergenthal

This book is part of genre of literature that I must admit I am familiar with but seldom enjoy reading, and that is memoirs of the survival of the Holocaust, of which we should not expect very many new ones given the length of time, except among manuscripts preserved in private and found by divine providence [1].  Indeed, divine providence has a lot to do with my view of this book because in reading this book I was at a distinct disadvantage in that I do not believe in luck, and the author attributes his survival in the face of the horrors of Nazi Germany and its occupied territories to a combination of luck and his own survival skills and in his abilities to gain the help of others.  Nevertheless, although this book does dwell on luck and on the author’s implicit challenges to theodicy given the suffering faced by his mother in losing her first two decent but somewhat frail husbands before marrying for a third time in the aftermath of World War II, this is not as heavy-handed a book as one would imagine.

In terms of its contents, this book is about 200 pages and contains a story of how a child survived the concentration camps and found a future in the United States.  It begins with a look at the idyllic childhood of the author in Lubochna, in what was then Czechoslovakia, before having to leave for Poland after the German conquest (1).  Then the author discusses life in Katowice among other refugees and local Jews (2) as well as his time in the Kielce ghetto (3).  A discussion of the author’s survival of the labor camp at Auschwitz (4) and of the death march from that notorious camp to Germany (5) then follows, after which the author writes about his liberation (6).  A heartwarming story about his adoption as a mascot by the Polish army (7) and his experience in an orphan’s camp in Poland waiting to be found by his surviving mother (8) then shows the poignancy of the life of a refugee.  The book discusses the new beginning he and his mother faced after World War II (9) and life in postwar Germany (10) where he sought to catch up with his peers after falling academically far behind before he shows how he got a new life in America (11), where the narrative ends.

How you feel about this book will likely depend on a wide variety of factors.  The author takes a rather unsentimental tone throughout that puts in sharper relief the evils of Hitler’s Germany as well as the essential humanity, both for good and for evil, of many of the people trapped within it.  The author shows the development of his own bias and has some particularly poignant words to say about the shaping of his character and his destiny by what he had to endure, something that any survivor of childhood trauma will likely find insightful.  While in many cases the essential difference between my worldview and that of the author would be a major difficulty in appreciating this book’s considerable virtues, in this case the author’s straightforwardness makes this book easy to relate to anyway.  The author expresses real regret for having waited to long to write his narrative, but perhaps his effort here points out to the fact that those who suffer from the horrors and traumas of history have yet another obligation after surviving, and that is recording what happened to a world that would be all too willing to sweep it under the rug and deny it ever happened at all, yet another burden we must face when we have stared into the abyss of evil and lived to tell the tale.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Book Review: A Lucky Child

  1. Pingback: On Memiors Of Crappy Childhoods | Edge Induced Cohesion

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  3. Pingback: Book Review: Secrets To Your Successful Domestic Adoption | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Book Review: Gathering Courage | Edge Induced Cohesion

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