Sunday, May 01, 2011

Review: Surviving the Angel of Death

Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz

About the Book:
Eva Mozes Kor was 10 years old when she arrived in Auschwitz. While her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, she and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man known as the Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele. Mengele's twins were granted the privileges of keeping their own clothes and hair, but they were also subjected to sadistic medical experiments and forced to fight daily for their own survival, as most of the twins died as a result of the experiments or from the disease and hunger pervasive in the camp. In a narrative told with emotion and restraint, readers will learn of a child's endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil. The book also includes an epilogue on Eva's recovery from this experience and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis. Through her museum and her lectures, she has dedicated her life to giving testimony on the Holocaust, providing a message of hope for people who have suffered, and working toward goals of forgiveness, peace, and the elimination of hatred and prejudice in the world.

My Comments:
This is a short book--I read it in less than an hour--and School Library Journal recommends it for grades 6 and up.  When I was in junior high I went through a phase of reading all I could about the Holocaust and this book would have been right up my alley at that time in my life.  As an adult today, I enjoyed it; my only concern would be that readers would consider Kor's experience typical.  In short, she and her sister went through hell at Auschwitz, but had each other and both lived to tell about it.  We know how atypical that experience was.  However, we do learn that most people were not so lucky.

The book begins  like many holocaust stories or memoirs, the story of a large happy family living in Europe pre-WWII.  As the Nazi's take over, things get worse, but surely those rumors can't be true, surely the Nazi's will fall one day, and we don't want to leave our homes and all we know.  Then the Nazi's show that the rumors are true, and we follow the author and her twin sister to Auschwitz where  they are separated from their parents and made part of Mengele's twin experiments.  Between the privileged status of these twins as compared to other inmates and their own strong will to survive, and the fact that they were "only" there from May 1944 to January 1945, both twins lived.  Eva's story continues to the post-war period when she and her sister return to their hometown to learn for sure that most of her family did not survive.  

As I noted before, it is a short book, but given the topic, it was long enough.  The fact of the matter was that these ten year old girls really didn't know much about what was happening to them.  While the injected substances may have varied, to the girls, one day was like the next.  While Kor gives us enough information about her post-Auschwitz life to bring us up-to-date, she doesn't allow this memoir to become "How the Nazi's Not Only Experimented on Me For a Year, but Also How They Made My Life Miserable for Another Fifty".  She mentions some of the problems she has had a result of those horrific years but doesn't dwell on them.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to write any review, much less a positive one.  Grade:  B+ 

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