DEAR GOD, HAVE YOU EVER GONE HUNGRY? by Joseph Bau

DEAR GOD, HAVE YOU EVER GONE HUNGRY?

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A Schindler Jew’s mediocre Holocaust memoir, buoyed by its generous humor and often fetching illustrations. As Holocaust memoirs go, Bau’s isn—t remarkably full of depravity, heroism, or miraculous escapes. Instead, for much of the memoir’s first half, the teenaged protagonist is incarcerated with his family in the ghetto of Krakow. Much of the black humor that pervades this section involves Joseph, as unpaid graphic artist, and his ever-scheming, comic-optimist brother Marcel, who tries to parlay Joseph’s skill into life-giving work permits and even financial rewards from their Nazi overlords. But relentless hunger, as the title suggests, is really the chief theme; the funniest section involves the misadventures that prevent three different sources of food from providing a beggar’s banquet. Still, Bau writes in earnest (and how could he not?): the ghetto is liquidated on March 13, 1943, and some 2,000 Jews are butchered in the process. Accordingly, the authorial eye observes a woman’s hand, protruding from a shallow mass grave, “pointing an accusing finger . . . as if to warn the killers that their hour of reckoning would surely come.” A latrine is then built above the grave. The inhumanity and inanity of the situation give Bau just the right opportunity for his understated wit, which proves to be the key to his survival, offered in resistance to a range of horrific events. He tells of his courtship and marriage to Rebecca Tannenbaum in the camp. Climactically, in the memoir’s final chapter, the now elderly Israeli couple braces as they—re called to testify at the Vienna trial of the Plaszow concentration camp’s killer of Blau’s father. Many of Bau’s 100 or so childish line drawings offer emotive illustration. He includes a few maudlin and inartistic poems that add little to this memoir.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-55970-431-4
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998