THE BOYS by Martin Gilbert


The Untold Story of 732 Young Concentration Camp Survivors
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 A group memoir by younger Holocaust survivors, as assembled by one of the period's premier historians. At first it seems unsettling to flit from the recollections of one young Polish or Hungarian Holocaust survivor to another. But because Gilbert (The Holocaust, 1986; The Day the War Ended, 1995; etc.) has done such a superb job of weaving together the memories of some 730 children (predominantly boys) who survived the war and were rehabilitated in Britain, we get an effective overview of the experience of the Holocaust. Some of the stark details of the memories speak volumes: A mother, selected for death by Dr. Mengele at Auschwitz, turns to her panicked offspring with the austere words, ``Let us say goodbye, my children.'' These recollections of events and people are also historically significant and fresh. The diversity of the many voices offers a considerable range of experience. For example, did ``the boys'' (as they called themselves) turn to vengeance when the eleventh-hour death marches, the beatings, the executions, the starvation, finally ended in liberation by American troops? Yes and no. Michael Etkind pointed out escaping SS men to American troops and pleaded, ``Boom, boom.'' In contrast, when Jack Rubinfeld was confronted with a German woman with children who hadn't eaten in a day, he shared his stash of bread with them. Descriptions of the slow rehabilitation of the children in British facilities takes up the final third of the book, and this material is unique and particularly powerful: It took a while for some of the boys to learn how to wait for their food and not vault over the table to seize it. It took even longer to rekindle self-confidence. Dr. Fridolin Moritz Max Friedmann, himself an ÇmigrÇ and a skilled educator who headed a British residence devoted to easing the boys back into the world, noted that ``the habit of hope is still so new to them.'' A uniquely effective addition to Holocaust literature. (40 b&w photos, 8 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8050-4402-7
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997


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