In her debut memoir, Roth recounts her experiences as a Jewish teenager in Poland during the Holocaust.
The author spent her childhood in comfort in interwar Poland, where her father was the editor of a Jewish newspaper and her mother was a clothing store owner. When Nazi Germany attacked the country in 1939, German soldiers forced Roth’s family, along with the rest of the city’s Jewish population, into a ghetto, where they faced starvation, disease, and brutal violence. Roth’s father managed to escape to Palestine, but she and the rest of her family remained trapped. Ultimately, Roth’s mother, her three siblings, and many members of her extended family were murdered by the Nazis. Roth’s experiences are sadly similar to many others’, but her eye for detail and intimate writing style provide readers with a full, personal, and unique view of a tragic time. Particularly illuminating are her accounts of daily life during her three years in the ghetto. Along with the more widely known historical details, there are surprising anecdotes of Jewish peddlers making their living selling the required Star of David armbands or of a young violin virtuoso’s performance, which temporarily released Roth and her friend from thoughts of fear and hunger. Roth writes in the present tense with great specificity, which adds immediacy to the events. Despite knowing the outcome, readers won’t be able to help but feel inspired by the “revival of the spirit” that spread through the Jewish community prior to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. After that rebellion was suppressed, Roth passed through what she calls “the gates of hell” and was sent to the Majdanek concentration camp, then to Auschwitz and, later, Bergen-Belsen. Roth depicts the horrors she experienced in these places with clarity and urgency, which will give readers the feeling that the events are unfolding before their eyes, not in some distant period of history. For this reason, Roth’s book is a necessary volume.
A well-observed, heartbreaking memoir of the Holocaust.