EUROPA, EUROPA by Solomon Perel

EUROPA, EUROPA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A standout wartime memoir, and the inspiration of the Golden Globewinning film of the same title. Perel, now an Israeli businessman, survived the Holocaust in a most improbable way. Facility with German and Russian allowed the teenage Solly, separated from his family, to be given shelter first at a Soviet orphanage and later, incredibly, in Germany's premier Hitler Youth institution. On the perilous way from one ideological extreme to another, Perel was rounded up by attacking Wehrmacht troops, passed himself off as an ethnic German, and was adopted as the mascot of a mechanized unit. The exquisite psychological drama of being a Jew in Nazi clothing intensifies when he is shipped back to Germany. The lonely boy, who took the name Jupp, found himself bonding with Nazi friends and learning--even teaching--loathsome Nazi propaganda about Jews. He was shaken from any confidence in his lucky angel whenever his circumcision or absent birth records came to the fore. But he risked all to visit the Lodz ghetto to search for his parents during his Christmas vacation. In a suicidal break from his usual self-control, he unburdened himself of his terrible secret to a couple of Germans. His parents died in a concentration camp, but with the help of two surviving brothers, Perel finally got to establish his true identity in the newborn state of Israel. As narrator, Perel constantly points out poignant ironies and flashes forward to postwar visits with the principal characters. We get to see many Nazis and Jews react after the war with disbelief when they discover that Solly/Jupp was, indeed, Jewish. An epilogue touches on Perel's cathartic, present-day encounters with Jews and Nazis (he now lectures about fascism), but the weight of this memorable psychological thriller lies in the interior drama. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 27th, 1997
ISBN: 0-471-17218-9
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1997