Kalib was born in 1931, the beloved youngest child of a wealthy, large, and close-knit family in Bodzentyn, a town of 4000,...


THE LAST SELECTION: A Child's Journey through the Holocaust

Kalib was born in 1931, the beloved youngest child of a wealthy, large, and close-knit family in Bodzentyn, a town of 4000, including 1400 Jews, near Cracow, Poland. She is neither a poet nor a theologian. The form in which her husband and a colleague have helped her recast her reminiscences is straightforward, even plodding at times. But from the accretion of details emerges a picture with fresh power to shock and disturb. No novelist could invent the German policeman who shot Jews for sport, photographed them as corpses, and then buried them in a sort of private cemetery for his trophies. Even more upsetting than the account of barbarism is the story of Jewish attempts to survive and carry on in a human way: hiding textbooks under flowerpots because by October 1939 Jewish children were forbidden to study; sneaking past Auschwitz guards in 1944 to keep in touch with family members. The youth and vitality that helped the author survive illuminate the horrors she went through with primary colors. Her father's wealth and resourcefulness protected the family for a time. In 1942, as the Germans were rounding up the Jews in nearby villages, Kalib was sent into hiding with a Polish landowner and her communist nephew. She paints a moving portrait of this woman, compassionate and courageous but, like many Poles, so anti-Semitic--with Church encouragement--that she saw what was happening to her Jewish neighbors as punishment for their murdering Christ. Later, Kalib joined the rest of her family in a labor camp. In 1944, they were shipped to Auschwitz. In 1945, the survivors went on a death march to Bergen-Belsen. Anne Frank had gone that same way. Kalib's child's-eye view of Auschwitz's maniacal orderliness and the world's-end chaos of Bergen-Belsen makes a useful complement to the famous diary. At a time when revisionists are running ads in college newspapers claiming the Holocaust is a hoax, this affecting memoir should go into every high-school and college library.

Pub Date: March 1, 1992


Page Count: 328

Publisher: Univ. of Massachusetts Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992