An eloquent, deeply intimate account of a Polish teenager’s endurance of successive deathly challenges unimagined in a lifetime. At age 13, Szlamek Pivnik, a tailor’s son in the poor but vibrant, predominantly Jewish town of Bedzin, Poland, essentially said goodbye to his idyllic childhood. On September 1, 1939 (the author’s birthday), the Germans invaded: Schools closed, the town’s main synagogue was burned, the execution squads arrived, and roundups began that gradually restricted the Jews to the ghetto in the nearby quarry.
Pivnik’s father’s skill as a tailor protected the family to some extent, as did the author’s job in a furniture factory. Though they tried to hide in an attic, they were forced out by thirst and hunger to join the call for deportations. On the train platform at Auschwitz, separated by the flick of the wrist (Pivnik believes it was Dr. Mengele himself making the selections) into a line left or right (that is, to the death chamber or to work camp), his family disappeared in a heart-rending moment. Pivnik, then 17, was warned that to survive he had to say he was older and join whatever work crew would take him.
Pivnik portrays the prisoner so brutalized by daily deprivation and violence that he loses all will to resist, even if given the opportunity, and so unused to using his free will that he became perversely attached to his jailor even when the end was nearing for the Nazis and the march headed west. Masterfully conveys the grim absurdity of the Nazi mentality and the utter dejection of the concentration-camp prisoner.
- Pub Date : 18/06/2013
- ISBN : 978-1-250-02952-2
- Publisher : St. Martin's
- Review Posted Online : April 16th, 2013
- Kirkus Reviews Issue : May 1st, 2013
- Author : Sam Pivnik