I SHALL LIVE: Surviving Against All Odds, 1939-1945 by Henry Orenstein

I SHALL LIVE: Surviving Against All Odds, 1939-1945

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This is not an historian's Holocaust analysis, but a victim's Holocaust story: a chronologically arranged memoir, unsoftened by memory's filter, unyielding in its recording of horror. Orenstein first describes how his family attempted to evade capture by the Nazis. His parents and their five children managed to remain free for three years after the Nazis invaded Poland. He writes of their life under seige, culminating in a poignant section on their capture. Orenstein evokes their hiding in a tiny concealed spot for eight days, their exhaustion, their fateful decision to surrender, and the subsequent execution of the parents who are led away leaving only the final admonition to ""save the children."" In the second part, a harrowing, detailed description of life in concentration camps, Orenstein paints vivid portraits of each of the five camps in which he was imprisoned. The requirements of survival and Orenstein's refusal to turn away from telling what happened make for some unnerving reading. At numerous times, Orenstein was almost killed. One particularly gruesome moment has him in a pit with an SS man pointing a revolver at him, telling him to get out of the pit and then stomping on his fingers as he tries. In many ways this straightforward narrative is almost too personal--and, as such, it just misses what it could have been: the symbolic story revelatory of a Jewish will to survive. Orenstein does have the knack of bringing readers along with him on his trip to hell, however; and none that accompany him will emerge unscathed.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
ISBN: 0825305004
Publisher: Beaufort