Yishar Koach: Forward with Strength

THE STORY OF SHOAH SURVIVOR FERDINAND J. FRAGNER

A book about a former Buchenwald inmate that offers a powerful treatise on inner strength.

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A debut biography of a Holocaust survivor delivers a detailed tribute to a remarkable individual.

In her acknowledgements, the author states candidly: “an evaluator by profession, I occasionally longed to write a book about someone’s life rather than an evaluation of someone’s program.” Despite meeting Ferdinand “Fred” Fragner only twice, Sloan felt that his story “cried out to be told and remembered.” Fred was born in 1915 in Nový Ji ?ín, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in the Czech Republic. The son of a diamond cutter, he was raised in a prosperous family, until tragically orphaned at age 14. He then became a street urchin, honing skills that would later prove vital in the face of Nazi oppression. Miraculously, he completed his education and enrolled in Charles University in Prague, beginning a dissertation on clinical psychology. During this time, Hitler started annexing Czechoslovakia. Forever courageous, Fred joined an underground movement drilled to disrupt Nazi military activity. After three years, he was shot, captured, and shipped to Buchenwald. His five years at the Nazi concentration camp is a deeply affecting recollection of “humans doing inhuman things.” He speaks of a 16-year-old boy forced to hang his parents, and of his own best friend being shot randomly by an SS officer, an event that evoked lifelong nightmares. The author’s admiration for her subject is palpable throughout, to the extent that it is possible to imagine her lovingly transcribing Fred’s video and audio interviews. His voice always remains central, delivering many timely messages: “There is much hatred because people haven’t yet learned how to respect each other, how to love each other sometimes in spite of each other, to respect [each other’s] rights, to respect differences and respect and find ways of resolving troubles in talking with each other.” This tender biography’s scholarly credibility wavers at times when the author draws information from Wikipedia or TV documentaries such as Histories of the Holocaust, sources that hold little weight in a serious intellectual context. There is also a tendency to repeat information unnecessarily, such as Fred speaking “fluent German.” These are perhaps forgivable slip-ups for a new writer that could be rectified by a thorough edit. Still, this remains a well-written and thoroughly researched volume that should prove an important addition to the Holocaust canon.

A book about a former Buchenwald inmate that offers a powerful treatise on inner strength.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9976586-0-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: Village Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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