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The Boy Who Refused to Die

by Sidney Finkel

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-9763562-0-1

An honest, awe-inspiring tale of bittersweet survival in the face of formidable odds.

After years of self-repression, Finkel, formerly Sevek Finkelstein, now tells his powerful story of survival in early-1940s Poland. Prompted by his daughter and feeling a need to exorcize his demons, Finkel presents his (and his family's) experiences before, during and after the Holocaust. His straightforward manner, told in raw, spare language, renders his memories all the more affecting. He begins with a sheltered childhood in a fairly well-to-do family with loving parents and siblings and mischievous adventures, but then quickly shifts to years of countless atrocities and horrors including running for cover as German planes fired all around him; having his eldest and dearest sister shot dead in a cemetery after her newborn was thrown out of a window by German officers; living in a cramped and disease-ridden ghetto; constantly hiding from certain death at a bevy of concentration camps; eating grass for survival in the final days before reaching freedom; and, finally, resuming an education in a foreign country after a six-year lapse. The memoir also includes a harrowing account of death in the Treblinka death camp where Finkel's mother, sister Frania and 20 or more close relatives were killed, as well as his brother Isaac's miraculous survival as a Polish army officer caught in enemy territory. With the exception of certain passages that become slightly vague and out of touch with the narrative thread, the narration is smooth and free of pretension--particularly in the chapter entitled "Deportation" and the sections depicting the underground of Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Chalk up the infrequent moments of opacity to the protracted length of Finkel's silence on the subject, during which his memory, sense of time, and comprehension were surely distorted.

A poignant memoir with a refreshing absence of melodrama or pomp.