THE SURVIVOR by Jack Eisner


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The most painful thing about this particular Holocaust survival memoir is its cheapness--tabloid sentiments in tabloid prose. ""Jacku"" Eisner was 13 when war came to Warsaw in September 1939; the next year, after the ghetto was enclosed, he organized a smuggling gang. HIS father withdrew into his books, his mother grew hysterical, his sister died of typhoid: he was the mainstay of his family. In the turmoil, he loved, and was loved by, the beautiful Halina (""Unchained, uncontrolled, until finally we climaxed together, screaming our joy,"" etc.). When the ghetto ring tightened and Jewish resistance grew, she joined him in fighting. (""A new kind of Jew is being born right here, right now,"" says Jacku, ""in the Warsaw ghetto."" And at the raising of the Jewish flag, Halina declares she's ""full of goosebumps and chills."") Missing two chances to escape, before and after the ghetto's fall, they found themselves at Madjanek--beginning a sadly familiar tale of tenacity and hair's-breadth survival livened up, here, by unlikely meetings. He has made it as slave laborer in Germany--by withstanding the blows of a sadistic, admiring German commander--when she turns up as a bordello inmate. . . earlier singled out, she tells him, for a night with Alfred Krupp. At war's end he finds her aboard a hospital ship about to sail for Sweden, where she dies with her hand in his. He identifies himself today as a big businessman (""With an apartment on Fifth Avenue,"" ""an estate in Connecticut,"" and ""a yacht on the Riviera"") and the founder of the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization. He was determined all along to survive, he says, to tell the tale. Fortunately for the memory of those who perished, it has not waited upon his telling.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1980
Publisher: Morrow