BETWEEN TWO STREAMS by Abel J. Herzberg

BETWEEN TWO STREAMS

A Diary from Bergen-Belsen
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An unusually probing, sensitive, and eloquent diary of incarceration at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Herzberg was a Dutch novelist and playwright, as well as a prominent lawyer, whose Holocaust diary only came to light after his death in 1989. He spent 15 months at Bergen-Belsen in a special section of the camp, where prisoners who possessed some status in the prewar world were kept alive for possible exchange with Allied- held Germans. As a result of their unique status, these ``special'' prisoners escaped the fate of others, who were worked to death or immediately killed. But life was not much easier: Seventy percent of the prisoners in Herzberg's section perished from malnutrition, disease, or torture. It is because Herzberg lived to see so much, and because of his passion for justice and his basic decency, that this book towers over many more gruesome death-camp memoirs. He served as a kind of judge for his section of the camp, rendering decisions when, for instance, the widow of a millionaire was brought before him, accused of stealing a ration of bread hoarded in a neighbor's lice-ridden mattress. Because collective punishment by the Germans was so swift and severe, Herzberg and other inmate leaders were constantly forced to strike a balance between punishing offenders (by withholding rations), and cooperating with Nazi sadism. It's deeply moving to read how so many resisted Nazi dehumanization and ``cheated to give the other an extra slice of bread.'' Beyond the treatment of significant philosophical and psychological issues, the diary's strength is its eloquence and irony. When mired in tedium, the ``days do not follow one another but coincide,'' while the final trauma of evacuation by train is ``spotted fever on wheels.'' Harsh and gentle, intimate and public, these sparkling observations of human nature and values resonate with that spirit which cannot be beaten or starved out of us.

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1997
ISBN: 1-86064-121-0
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1997




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