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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book Report

Having a degree in English means that I've read a lot of books. Not just because it was required in order to graduate, but because I LOVE THEM. That's why I decided to major in English; it was easy. It didn't take much effort. Yes, it was sometimes hard to sit down and read after working until midnight, but I managed to finish books I hated or had no time for and write papers and/or participate in class discussions.

One of the books that Prof. Deeter had us read really left a mark on me. It's the auto-biographical account of Olga Lengyel, a woman who survived the Holocaust. It's entitled Five Chimneys and allows the reader to catch an inside glimpse of the horror that was Auschwitz.

Lengyel's husband was a doctor during the Nazi raids, and her family is duped into believing that his deportation from Cluj, Transylvania to Germany is due to his expertise as a surgeon. She convinces herself that the whole family should accompany him and that they would be better off sticking together. Needless to say, her disillusionment is shattered when she and 95 others are crammed into a cattle car for 7 days without relief. This is only the beginning of her horrific story.

I can't get through this book without crying. But still, I always find myself recommending it. I just feel the need to share it with others. I feel the same way about Sophie's Choice, as well as The Diary of Anne Frank. I simply cannot believe what people went through during the Holocaust, and I can't stop myself from reading about it, even though I have terrible nightmares after doing so! It's possible I just want to remind myself how lucky I am, how blessed I am. I enjoy so many freedoms, and I have so many loved ones to whom I have ready access. I don't have to worry about being separated and locked up, malnourished or beaten for my beliefs. For that I am so grateful.

I know it's not the most uplifting of books in the traditional sense, but Lengyel's story does remind me to be grateful. It's so well written and at 230 pages it can easily be read in one sitting. Lengyel does a wonderful job of reminding her readers that even though unimaginable things happened in concentration camps, there was still a lot of goodness. There were still people who recognized their potential as healers and who tried their best to alleviate the sufferings of others. It sets such a wonderful example to me.

I hope you'll read it.


  1. It sounds heart wrenching. I just about cried reading your synopsis. Maybe you should write a book of your own. :o)

  2. Hey, love the book review. And love that you're an English major, as well.
    I will add your recommendations to my never ending list of "Things to Read".
    Love your blog, Liv.

  3. I'm going to add this to my list. Have you read The Hiding Place? It's amazing. One of the best.


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