Another harrowing Holocaust personal story
Bookxpert Rating: 4.5/5
A huge thank you to the author, Adena Astrowsky, and tour organizer Anne Cater, for the review copy, and having me on the tour.
This is the story of one remarkable young woman’s unimaginable journey through the rise of the Nazi regime, the Second World War, and the aftermath. Mania Lichtenstein’s dramatic story of survival is narrated by her granddaughter and her memories are interwoven with beautiful passages of poetry and personal reflection. Holocaust survivor Mania Lichtenstein used writing as a medium to deal with the traumatic effects of the war.
Many Jews did not die in concentration camps, but were murdered in their lifelong communities, slaughtered by mass killing units, and then buried in pits. As a young girl, Mania witnessed the horrors while doing everything within her power to subsist. She lived in Włodzimierz, north of Lvov (Ukraine), was interned for three years in the labor camp nearby, managed to escape and hid in the forests until the end of the war.
Although she was the sole survivor of her family, Mania went on to rebuild a new life in the United States, with a new language and new customs, always carrying with her the losses of her family and her memories.
My grandmother said that this war was not an easy one to forget. The survivors go through the motions of life and pretend to be normal people, but regretfully, they are not. She wrote, “How can one forget all this gore?”
A friend of hers, also a survivor, told my grandmother, “Do you realize that we are unable to laugh?” My grandmother confirmed this was true. She continues that, aside from the pain of losing everything, there is also an enormous feeling of shame. She said, “It is one thing to be killed in a war but another to be slaughtered like sheep. Ones ego suffers.” And such was the mentality of the Eastern European Jews, always afraid, always the victim.
Another Holocaust story. Many more times it got me thinking- How could this have been possible? Did this really happen?
Jews being taken from their homes and being shot at point blank range in the woods. Piles of their bodies heaped into the pits dug by them. Their blood soaked soil attracting dogs and wolves. To German soldiers, Jews were just logistics. If 19000 Jews needed to be killed, 19000 would be killed by hook or crook.
Living Among the Dead is different from other Holocaust books I’ve read because it isn’t just one person’s account of it. It describes the Holocaust in a wider arc, telling us what was happening in Poland alongside notes of the time from the author’s grandma- Bubbie’s personal diary, and all of them are harrowing reads. Though Bubbie wasn’t in a concentration camp, she did have to live on the edge, running from one ghetto to the next, hiding, starving for days at a stretch to save her life.
After one such raid, Bubbie was tasked with sorting the clothes of the Jews who’d been killed the previous day. She came across her sister’s sweater and grandma’s coat while sorting. I cannot imagine how it must have felt to find out so cruelly that her most loved ones were no more.
One thing that has always been consistent in all the Holocaust survivor stories is the remarkable will to survive, for whatever reason- hope, defiance, or something else. And the immense feeling of gratefulness they felt after liberation.
Bubbie had not known how much longer she would have to live, and so the word ‘tomorrow’ did not exist. Each day she would just ‘live for the day’. She wrote, “It is unbelievable how much one takes for granted: freedom, respect, water, food, and sleep…”
I feel really lucky and thankful that I got to read this book, and recommend it to everyone. It’s very difficult to go wrong with a real Holocaust story.
There are several pictures of the family included in the book, which gave a great personal touch. I kept going back to them. The last section contains some poems from Bubbie’s diary.
About the Author:
Adena Bernstein Astrowsky has dedicated her career to helping the most vulnerable of our society. She did this by prosecuting child sexual abuse cases and domestic violence cases within the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. She became the local expert concerning the prosecution of domestic violence related strangulation cases and taught extensively on that subject. Currently, she handles post conviction cases on appeal and foreign extradition cases. Adena taught Sunday School at her temple for eight years, and in her last two years she co-taught “Character Development Through the Studies of the Holocaust.”
Adena contributes articles to MASK (Mothers Awareness on School-age Kids) Magazine, often writing about children’s safety, drugs, law and order, etc. Once a month Adena volunteers at a local Scottsdale library with her therapy dog, Charlie, as part of the Tail Waggin’ Tales Program. Adena has also chaired events to raise money for the Emily Center of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Recently, Adena was recognized for her professional and philanthropic work with an Amazing Woman Award from the Phoenix Suns and National Bank of Arizona. Adena’s greatest role, however, is as the mother of three very active children. She, and her husband, Brad, are kept very busy with their respective dance, theater, music, and athletic activities.
Other Stuff :
The Title:- Living Among the Dead- Bubbie was the only one left alive from her family after the war, she was the only living among all the dead.
Genre :- Non fiction
Final Thoughts :- Must-read Holocaust tale.