Surviving the Angel of Death by Eva Mozes Kor

“At Auschwitz dying was so easy. Surviving was a full time job.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 175 pages.
Read from May 12, 2017 to May 13, 2017.

I wanted this book off Netgalley but it was no longer available. Dammit. Well, I wanted to read it so badly that I bought it. I was not disappointed.

Eva and her twin, Miriam, were just 10 years old when they were ripped away from their family. It was the middle of WWII and they were among the many Jews being taken to Auschwitz. Eva and Miriam never saw their family again and their survival began from the fact that they were identical twins. As twins, they were given a bit of special treatment compared to the other Jews as the Nazi’s were invested in keeping them alive, at least for a brief period of time. Dr. Josef Mengele, or the Angel of Death, as he became known carried out hundreds of inhumane experiments on twins. Twins were injected with nasty diseases and forced into experiments that killed most of them.

“I was given five injections. That evening I developed extremely high fever. I was trembling. My arms and my legs were swollen, huge size. Mengele and Dr. Konig and three other doctors came in the next morning. They looked at my fever chart, and Dr. Mengele said, laughingly, ‘Too bad, she is so young. She has only two weeks to live.’ 

After fighting to stay alive though the experiments, even at 10, Eva was stubborn and driven to survive. Her uncanny resilience and skills are what kept her and her sister alive during their time in the Auschwitz camp. Eva never did discover what she was injected with despite her extensive research efforts as an adult. The outcome of these injections left both Eva and Miriam with lifelong repercussions and symptoms.

The scene that has been etched into my mind is the one Eva describes near the end of her story. Shortly after the camps had been abandoned by the Nazi’s, the remaining prisoners were struggling to survive and find food, many of them to weak or scared to leave the camp. While Eva is out looking for food she encounters a young normal-looking German girl on her way to school. Eva, in her thin and decrepit form, just stares at the girl. She is mortified to know that that people are living such regular lives while her and her sister lived through hell. Thankfully, the pair and the remainder of the prisoners were saved shortly thereafter.

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Eva’s story is jaw-dropping. I only put the book down because I had to, otherwise I would have read the whole book in one sitting. You get to know Eva and her family personally as she shares a less common (but equally horrifying) story of the Nazi era.

Eva’s advocacy and courage continued throughout her life with the creation of CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors).  She is also an advocate for forgiveness and has personally forgiven former Nazi’s for their part in the war.

If you have any interest in human resilience, survival, history, and just general awe-inspiring inspiration then I highly recommend this short read.

A Moth To The Flame by Debbie Sands

I knew Amy. Lots of people I grew up with could say that but did anyone know her struggles?

5/5 stars.
ebook, 162 pages.
Read from September 14 to 15, 2016.

I knew Amy. Not as well as I would have liked or for very long, but we grew up in the same town and had solid year together in the Studio Theatre class in our high school, the very one mentioned in this book. Her death hit the community and anyone that ever knew her hard. Perhaps this review is a little biased because of that connection but I am thankful that Debbie shared Amy’s story and her struggles.

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Amy as I remember her in 2003 – Studio Theatre – Foothills Composite High School -Okotoks, AB

Amy passed away in the summer of 2012. She was shot through a garage door with a bullet that never should have been shot and was not ever intended for her. She was 27 years old. Amy was eccentric, fun, independent, beautiful and confident. I’ll never forget some of fun times we had or the few inside jokes we created together. I remember envying her. However, few would have ever known the struggles that she dealt with and the problems it would cause in her adult life. Even more, few would have known about the struggles Amy’s family went through in trying to help her.

Amy had borderline personality disorder (BPD). A mental health condition that is characterized by overt and unstable emotions as well as abnormal behavior and relationships with others. Sufferers often have an unstable sense of self and extreme sense of abandonment that can often lead to dangerous behaviors.

Amy’s condition drove her to abuse drugs and mix with a crowd of people that ended up resulting her death. The book details the intimate struggles that her family had to endure while trying to deal with Amy. I cannot fathom the amount of pain and how trying it would have been trying to manage Amy. Her family loved her dearly but at the same time did not want to be enforcers to her behavior. They knew she was troubled but it wasn’t until after Amy’s death that they came to determine that she had BPD. The book spares no details and gives the deep down trauma of living with BPD and what it does to loved ones. While the book was heartbreaking to read, it is also immensely insightful.

I had the pleasure of working with Debbie on during a Dewdney theatre production of The Importance of Being Ernest around 2005. Debbie made a stellar Lady Bracknell and she never ever showed any signs of the potential turmoil that was effecting her private life. I am so glad that she wrote this book. Not only has she shed light for all that loved Amy but she is spreading awareness of about BPD. I hope that the writing process has been a healing one for her. No mother, or family for that matter, should ever have to endure what she went through. It was very brave of her to publish this book.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone with BPD or has a loved one with BPD. Or for those who have had mental illness effect them or someone that the have loved. And especially for anyone that loved or knew Amy.

 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

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Originally published on  November 11, 2013.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 492 pages.
Read from July 24 to August 27, 2013.

I read this novel for a book club and for whatever reason I thought that this was a holocaust survivor story so it was a nice surprise to find out that it was about American bomber planes and the Japanese as I had not read any biographical content on this part of the war.

I have to admit there was something about Laura’s writing that took me a bit to get used to. I found the first few chapters long and way too drawn out and it took me a little bit to get used to her sentence structure for whatever reason. With that being said, I became very involved and captivated with the story and the characters after the first few chapters. I also appreciated the amount of effort that Laura took in collaborating this remarkable story. It must have been such an honour and a pleasure to interview Louie.

I honestly still can’t get my head around the amount suffering Louie and his comrades were subjected to after being captured by the Japanese. How does someone go on in those conditions? The resilience displayed by Louie and his friends still amaze me. What I don’t understand is how a someone can cause that much pain and discomfort to another human being. I am glad that near the end Laura included some of the perspectives of the tormentors, specifically the Bird, not that it validates at all what they did but it is despicable to me the things that some people can convince themselves of. I recall feeling as vengeful and angry as Louie did in the novel though I don’t know if I found the same peace as Louie at the end. I want people to be punished for their crimes and I don’t feel like the Bird ever was.

I really appreciated that the book continued on after Louie finally made it back home to his family. So many war related stories stop once they’ve reached the safety of home but while one battle has ended another one begins. So I’m very thankful that Laura was able to provide insight into the PSTD that these men experienced and how they were able to overcome that final battle.