With the immediacy of a novel and the simplicity of distilled truth, this Holocaust memoir already feels like a classic, like Elie Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz.
Roman Halter was a spirited, optimistic schoolboy in 1939 when he and his family gathered behind the curtains to watch the Volksdeutsche (German Polish) neighbors of their small town in western Poland greet the arrival of Hitler’s armies with kisses and swastika flags. Within days, the family home had been seized, 12-year-old Roman had become a slave of the local SS chief, and, returning from an errand, he silently witnessed his Jewish classmates being bayoneted to death by soldiers at the edge of town.
So began his remarkable six-year journey through some of the darkest caverns of Nazi Europe that claimed the lives of every other member of his family and the 800-strong community of his boyhood. Incredibly, he survived the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz, the Stutthof concentration camp, and work as a slave laborer in a factory in Dresden, where he endured the fire-bombing that destroyed the city. He later managed to escape from the SS on a death march, and lasted out the end of the war in hiding with a brave German couple, only to return to his native village to find it completely transformed: emptied of Jews, rife with anti-Semitism and envy, and no longer resembling anything like home.
In unadorned yet powerful, sometimes harrowing prose, he tells his indelible story with a simplicity and grace that allow the facts of his suffering and survival speak for themselves.