Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, February 2, 2015

Such Good Girls - The Journey of the Hidden Child Survivors of the Holocaust by R. D. Rosen (2014)

Such Good Girls - The Journey of the Hidden Child Survivors of the Holocaust by R. D. Rosen is an important addition to holocaust literature from which all but experts will learn a lot. Not long ago I read and posted on a very interesting book, The Last Jews in Berlin by Leonard Gross in which he told us that of the 1000 or so Jews who lived and survived all of the Nazi era in Berlin, each one depended on the help of Gentile  Germans to survive.  Some hid in plain sight, passing as Christian, others spent the years hidden in houses by hosts risking their own lives to help Jews.

In Such Good Girls we learn that while 70% of adult European Jews were killed during the holocaust, 90% of Jewish children were killed by the Germans.  In one horrific scene, we learn Germans drained the blood from Jewish children for transfusion into German soldiers, thus reversing the facts in a leading anti-Semetic myth.  

Anne Frank is the image that first comes to mind when one thinks of children hidden from the Germans.  Of course she did not survive.  Such Good Girls centers on three Jewish girls that survived.  We follow them from the hiding years up to their mid-seventies, living in America.

Sophia's mother, when she was five, totally induced her daughter to believe she was a Catholic from a family that hated Jews.   Her family did not at all "look Jewish" so this passing strategy worked, but Sophia had to totally be made to hate Jews for it to work, to avoid a fatal slip of the tongue.  After the war, in a very poignant scene, her mother tells her of her real identity.  It is very hard for her to accept it but in time she does.  She eventually emigrated to New York City and became a highly regarded radiology oncologist physician.  

Flora and her family were protected and sheltered by a Christian family.  She stayed hidden through the Nazi years.  She also moved to America and became a psychologist, pioneering in the study of hidden child survivors.  All of her family but her died in the holocaust.  

Carla lived through the war years hidden by a Dutch family.  Also moving to New York City, she became a psychologist and helped found an international organization of hidden child survivors.

Rosen does a very good job of letting us see the long lasting impacts their childhood experienced had on the three women.  We follow their lives from terrified and bewildered young girls to imminent professionals.  All worked in professions dedicated to helping others.  

One of the many fascinating elements in the book was the first large meetings of child survivors.  It was deeply moving to me to read of these meetings.  

This is a very good book, there is much in it I have left out about the years in hiding, the immediate post war period, the horrors of the Germans, and the common psychological traits of child survivors grown into adults. 

Biography Of Author 

R. D. Rosen has written or co-authored numerous books spanning different genres—from Edgar Award-winning mystery novels to bestselling humor books to narrative nonfiction, including Psychobabble (a word he coined in 1975) and A Buffalo in the House. He has appeared as a humorist and satirist on PBS, HBO, and NPR's All Things Considered.  (From Harper Collins)

As I read of the life lasting impact on the psyche of the child survivors I was brought strongly to mind the experiences of another survivor of a holocaust, Dana Hui Liu who spent five years in a labor camp during the years of the killing fields of Cambodia.  After posting on her very powerful memoir of these times, My Mother and the Tiger - A Memoir of the Killing Fields I was privileged to do a Q and A session with her and much of her thinking mirrors that of that of the survivors talked about in Rosen's book.

My Q and A Session with Dana Liu, a survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields 

I strongly urge anyone interested in holocaust related issues to read this interview.  

Mel u

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