PROMISES TO KEEP by Ernest Michel


One Man's Journey Against Incredible Odds
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 Personal testimony of a life of extremes, from Auschwitz horrors to American success. Michel begins with Kristallnacht, the night in November 1938 that the Germans and Austrians destroyed synagogues and Jewish buildings. He was then a young boy living with his family in comfortable circumstances in Mannheim--but at age 15, he was separated from his family and taken to Auschwitz, where his parents and grandmother died (Michel's sister left home at age ten, to live as a refuge with a family in France). The author witnessed unbearable atrocities in the camp, including the conducting of medical experiments on girls and women by Joseph Mengele (the Auschwitz ``Doctor of Death''); the constant deaths of friends; and the unfathomable cruelty of Nazi soldiers. He spent ``six hundred seventy four days in a man-made hell,'' and promised his friends to record what he saw: ``I tried to describe a world that accepted hatred for and discrimination against Jews.'' Michel was on the 15- hour march from Auschwitz to Buchenwald, a camp whose gate was inscribed ``Right or Wrong--My Country,'' and, directly underneath, ``To Each His Own.'' Late in the afternoon of April 15, 1945, the author and two friends escaped. Six weeks later, he was the first Jew to return to Mannheim, where he was mistakenly arrested by American soldiers, then helped considerably by a Jewish lieutenant who became a major force in his life. Michel--whose sister survived in Israel--became a successful speaker and fund-raiser for the United Jewish Appeal in America, and, in the last 15 years, has returned to Mannheim, led a group to Auschwitz, and participated in the World Gathering of Survivors in Israel. Michel records his life in only perfunctory detail but still shows how strong the will to survive can be. (Sixteen pages of photographs)

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-9623032-4-0
Page count: 298pp
Publisher: Barricade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993