Wednesday, 27 October 2010

In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer

Authors: Irene Gut Opdyke (with Jennifer Armstrong)
Genre: Autobiography
Pages: 236
Critique in 3 Words: Haunting, inspiring, incredible
First Line: "There was a bird flushed up from the wheat fields, disappearing in a blur of wings against the sun, and then a gunshot and it fell to the earth."

Synopsis: This book accounts the life of Irene Gut who was a sixteen year old Catholic nursing student in Poland at the beginning of WWII. This is an eye opening account of what it was like for non-Jews living in Poland during one of the most devastating times in history.

After the war breaks out Gut is brutally attacked and left for dead by Russian soldiers. She miraculously escapes into a German-occupied area where she is forced to work for the German army. With access to food, supplies and conversations from Nazi elite, she sees a way to bring comfort and safety to some of the Jews around her. She is soon promoted to housekeeper of a powerful Nazi major where she not only smuggles food and supplies to Jews hidden in nearby woods, but she is able to house 12 Jews right under the nose of her German employer. This is the story of selflessness and that the power of one person can do much to help the greater good.

My Thoughts:
I was so lucky to have stumbled upon this book thanks to one of my neighbours who loaned it to me. I have always had an interest and almost fascination with WWII. This book was amazingly vivid, haunting, blunt in recounting the attrocities that occured but also uplifting and touching. It's a no holds barred look at what life was like during WWII and the brutality that happened to Jews and the Poles who helped protect them from certain death.

This book shows how one person CAN make a difference -- even a tiny 16 year old girl who would otherwise think of herself as powerless in the face of the Nazis. Like Irene says "If you are a girl, this is how you destroy your enemies." She used all of the resources around her and never waivered in her resolve to help those who were more powerless than she was.

I know that Irene's story will stay with me for a very long time. I keep thinking - 'Would I have had the strength, courage and selflessness that Irene possessed?'. I'm honestly not sure. I'd like to hope I would but this young woman (we have to remember that she was only in her late teens/early twenties) lived through so much brutality and loss yet was still so extraordinarily self-sacrificing.
I did respect how raw and shocking some of the scenes had to be in order to portray what life was like back then. One of the most shocking scenes (and there were several) that will stay with me for a very long time was a hanging scene. Irene says "It took no time to hang them. No time at all. First these people were alive. Then they were dead." Blunt and emotional.
While this is a book about brutality, fear, powerlessness and evil it's also a book about courage, the strength of family, friends and the human spirit, faith and hope. It left me feeling emotional and thankful to people like Irene who continue to make their mark on the world.

I highly recommend this book.

My Rating: 5/5 stars


Aleisha said...

I LOVED this book and I was soooo excited that you were reading it. I am glad that you loved it, it was such a great book! Yay!

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

It was sooo good on so many different levels. A definite must-read.

Aleisha said...

I know, eh? I always thought that my life pales in comparison. I always thought that I would be able to do someting heroic if I had to, but I'm not sure I could do some things that you read about from the Second World War. She was so young and had her sister to care for and she took such a huge risk for people she didn't even know. It makes me want to do better with my life and do something that will count for something. It really was an inspirational book, I really did love it.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Aleisha ... have you read "The Book Thief"?? Just wondering. I bought it but heard a few negative reviews and now I'm wondering if I should take it back. It's another WWII book.

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