One man’s lifelong struggle to live with the Holocaust, after the Holocaust.
Born in Haifa in the early 1960s, Amir and his close cousin Effi were raised by Holocaust-survivor parents in a community of survivors. Most were not relatives but were nonetheless known as Grandpa, Grandma, Aunt and Uncle, a post-Holocaust family phenomenon Gutfreund refers to as the “Law of Compression.” In addition to his single living blood grandfather, Amir called at least four other men by that affectionate title. From an early age, Amir and Effi were obsessed with the Shoah, an ever-present entity they actually knew nothing about because they were deemed “Not Old Enough.” Determined, they read library books, asked questions, snooped around, read old letters, piecing together whatever they could. As time passed, Amir and Effi pursued their own lives. Amir was married with a son of his own when one of his “grandfathers” had a stroke; suddenly, he was “Old Enough” and the stories poured in from every direction, refueling his Shoah obsession with a new intensity. Gutfreund’s book is categorized as fiction but is in fact part autobiography—in the afterword, Gutfreund explains which sections are which. Particularly unsettling here are the statistics scattered throughout that concern Nazis who got away with horrific crimes. Translated from the Hebrew, Gutfreund’s brief, unembellished sentences may, at first, keep some readers at arms length even while drawing them deep into the intricacies of each character’s personality and story.
A moving and informative exploration of the thoughts and experiences of a young person surrounded by survivors.