A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal
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|A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal|
|Reviewer: Karen Inskip-Hayward|
|Summary: A different slant on a Holocaust survivor's tale.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: January 2010|
|Publisher: Profile Books|
I have read a lot of books on the Holocaust and many survivors' tales, as well as biographies and memoirs of those who didn't survive – most famously, The Diary of Anne Frank. So I was very interested to read A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal, who was only ten years old when he was incarcerated in Auschwitz in August 1944.
It was very rare for a young child to even make it into the concentration camps, as the initial selection usually sent the children, elderly and those seen as too weak to work to their fate – the infamous gas chambers of the crematorium. But luck was on the side of young Thomas and he made it into camp.
His luck is a theme throughout his story, as he survives a list of dangers before and during the concentration camps and ultimately, continues his life after the War and into old age. This is one reason to read this book, as it offers a unique perspective on the War, the Nazis and how ordinary Jews suffered.
Many of the books I have read on this subject concentrate almost entirely on their time in the camps, but this one is also a fascinating history of his life before Auschwitz and I felt it was the best Holocaust book I have read in one aspect in particular – the feel you get as the reader for how life was in the months prior to being taken to Auschwitz and the months after their liberation.
It is easy to imagine how hard life was for young Thomas, but in some ways, he had advantages. His father was a respected figure who was brave and determined to keep his family together for as long as possible. This was how Thomas survived the 1943 mass execution of children in the Ghetto of Kielce.
Later on in Auschwitz, he found people who liked him, perhaps felt like a father figure to him and helped him in practical ways, which saved his life. (You will have to read the book to find out more!) Being a young child made him memorable and recognisable and this seemed to assist him throughout. While those like Anne Frank were teenagers and relatively mature, Thomas Buergenthal was still obviously a little boy.
After liberation, he spent time with the Polish Army and this part was also fascinating, as I had never heard of anything like this happening before. He became almost the army mascot and at one point, even had his own pony and cart following behind the army vehicles.
The slight disadvantage I found in the book was that some of the book was written in quite an unemotional and detached way. Buergenthal himself recognises this and believes it to be due to his waiting fifty years to write it, but I personally enjoy the more impassioned accounts.
People often ask me why I am so fascinated by the stories of the Holocaust and especially its survivors and the reason is this – each story proves to me how wonderful humans are. Despite the inherent violence, horror and prejudice of this time, there are so many uplifting tales - people who survived against the odds, who risked their own lives to help others, who shared their meagre rations and possessions, who showed love and generosity. These people come from every group and nationality too. Even some of the Nazis were able to show kindness and sympathy. Each story shows how resilient and brave humans are and how we can survives the worst horrors and deprivations.
Thomas Buergenthal's A Lucky Child is no different in this respect. From the Polish soldiers to an Auschwitz doctor, many people were instrumental in saving his life. Like Miep Gies in The Diary of Anne Frank (the woman who took food to the families in the Annexe), Buergenthal's story is full of heroes. I would suggest you read it for this reason, if none other.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
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You can read more book reviews or buy A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal at Amazon.com.
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Susan O'Neill said:
A great book and one that should be in every school and compulsory reading for every child.
My thanks to Thomas Buergenthal for his inspiration, stamina and compassion in writing this book.
Regards, S O'Neil (Yorkshire)
Gayle Stahl said:
I Just finished reading "A Lucky Child" It was a phenomenal book. I loved how he inserted some human philosophy during the book and his epilogue was inspiring. If the whole world could adopt his understanding of human nature and forgivness what a wonderful world this could be. Gayle Stahl