A Survivor's Story of Holocaust Demons and Japanese Heroes
Email this review


 In almost journalistic prose, Ganor describes his experiences in the Slobodke ghetto in Lithuania and in concentration camps, until his liberation on May 2, 1945. Solly Genkind (Ganor) was born in 1928 in Heydekrug, Lithuania. When Hitler was made chancellor of Germany in 1933, the German-speaking population of Heydekrug became suddenly hostile to their Jewish neighbors, and his parents moved to Kaunas. There Solly was surrounded by a large and loving extended family. He was pampered and indulged and so charmingly impulsive that he invited the Japanese consul, Chiune Sugihara, to his house in 1939. It was there that Sugihara heard firsthand accounts of Nazi brutality from Polish refugees who were staying with the Genkind family. The consul would later issue visas to Jews fleeing Lithuania, disobeying orders from the Japanese government and saving thousands of lives. He was unable to save the Genkinds, however, whose passports were made invalid when the Soviets marched into Lithuania on June 15, 1940. A year later the Germans arrived. Along with the remaining Jewish population of Kaunas, the Genkinds were forced into the Slobodke ghetto, where they survived despite starvation rations, abusive physical labor, and both systematic and random murders of Jews. In one particularly harrowing description, Solly's friend Cooky tells of his escape from a mass grave in the Ninth Fort outside Kaunas. By the time the Jews were evacuated from the ghetto and taken to concentration camps just before the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944, more than 20,000 of them had been killed. Solly's camp near Dachau was not as bad as some, but he was barely alive when he was liberated by a Japanese-American unit after a vicious death march. Exceptional for its details about life before the war and in the ghetto, and powerful despiteor perhaps because ofits simplicity.

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 1995
ISBN: 1-56836-098-3
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Kodansha
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1995