Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal

A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal
Copyright 2009 (orig. publ'd in 2007)
Little, Brown and Company - NF/Memoir
228 pages

To speak of the Holocaust in terms of numbers--six million--which is the way it is usually done, is to unintentionally dehumanize the victims and to trivialize the profoundly human tragedy it was. The numbers transform the victims into a fungible mass of nameless, soulless bodies rather than treating them as the individual human beings they were.

A survivor of the Holocaust, Thomas Buergenthal was a mere 5 years old when his family was forced to move into a Jewish ghetto in Poland. Four years and two work camps later, they were shipped to Auschwitz, where they were separated. Miraculously, Thomas was able to stay with his father for quite a while and both he and his mother survived their time both in concentration camps and on separate death marches just prior to liberation. A Lucky Child is his story.

Buergenthal chose to write this book solely from his own viewpoint, as he remembers it, in part because the few people he could have consulted to verify details are no longer living and because he simply wasn't ready to revisit that pain until recently. Although the dates and the details may not be perfect, it's a powerful book and an amazing story of survival against odds. In the final pages of A Lucky Child, Buergenthal describes his life after the war and how he has become a vigorous advocate for human rights throughout the world.

I read a lot of Holocaust memoirs and it's amazing to how many different viewpoints one can read. It's simply never-ending, in part because of the sheer quantity of different backgrounds and countries from which imprisoned Jews hailed, a sad reminder of how many countries were conquered by the Nazis during that period of our world's history and an excellent reminder that we're really no different than those who lived and died in that time period. In fact, Buergenthal's mother, when young, bore a somewhat startling resemblance to my own mother when she was the same age.

As in the other books I've read, there was some totally new information. There's always something new. A Lucky Child is beautifully written and very, very moving. I highly recommend it, particularly to those who enjoy reading memoirs or anything relating to WWII. "Fungible" (in the quote, above) was a new word for me, by the way. It means "interchangeable".

I'm thinking about going back to rating books, always something that I've felt iffy about but found that I like at other blogs. What do you think? If I were to rate A Lucky Child, I'd go with 4.5/5.

And, now, to lighten the mood . . . a Costa Rican baby bunny:

Have a hoppy day!

Bookfool, who knows that was really, really bad


  1. HOORAY!!! I was a sad camper when you removed your ratings. It is something I look for in other people's reviews and really missed it here. Everybody rates differently, that's true, but if you are a follower of one's blog then you get a feel for their system.

    As for holocaust books (I guess I should have requested this one, huh?), I agree that they all have their own specialness (Is that a real word?) about them. Every experience is unique and I'm thankful that there are so many survivors that have shared their stories.

  2. Joy,

    Well, then. I guess it's settled. I'll have to dig to find my old rating guide.

    It's a good one, but one can only request so many books. Every now and then, I pass up a book and regret it, but I'm not blogging for free books and I've got to control the amount coming into the house.

    LOL! I don't know if "specialness" is a word, but I know what you mean. Every story is unique in some way. And, every survivor's story is both a horror and a relief. We need books like this.

  3. Cute bunny! I had one just like that in high school except mine was gray where this one is brown.

    Thanks for ending on a hoppy note. (Oh, I'm hilarious.)

  4. Nikki,

    You had a bunny? How cool! I've never even petted a living bunny, although I could have given this one a rub. I took his picture, instead. The photo of a hotel employee holding him is my favorite pic from Costa Rica (just his hands and the bunny -- so sweet).

    Hahaha! Your response made me very hoppy.

  5. This looks really interesting. Thanks for the recommendation.

    I've been toying with ratings too. I've avoided them for years, but for the past couple of years I've been rating my books on Goodreads and the Book-A-Week Yahoo group. I've stuck with Goodreads rating system which doesn't include half-stars, but the more I get used to rating books, the more I think I need the half stars. I may use the Goodreads rating descriptions as a starting point.

    I need to 'stare at it' for a while. That's what we say at my house when The Hubster has a project - he always has a need to go out in the garage or the yard and 'stare at it' for a while before digging in and starting. So it looks like I'm at the 'staring at it' phase of implementing ratings on my posts.

    ps I'd rather comment on blogs than work today ;-P

  6. SuziQ,

    I'm happy that not wanting to work meant a visit to my blog. :)

    I was in BAW for several years and had no problem rating books there, but I think the difference is that it was a private group and I didn't have to worry about an author feeling hurt. I did have one author ask me why I rated his book just 3/5 when my review was so positive and that bugged me, for some reason. Come to think of it, a rating helped clarify that I still thought it was an average read, in spite of the positives.

    Oh, interesting. I do the staring thing when I'm thinking of rearranging a room or painting, etc. It works beautifully! Ideas come to you when you just sit and ponder.

  7. I'm not too worried about authors seeing ratings - there are so many authors on Goodreads and they see my ratings there. I think a rating and comments together say much more than just a rating or even just comments.

    I didn't think that way a few years ago but after nearly 3 years of book blogging I'm changing my mind.

  8. SuziQ,

    I didn't know authors hang out at Goodreads. I seldom go there -- have tried to get into the habit of logging all my incoming books and finished reads but never have succeeded.

    I've very slowly come to the same conclusion about ratings. I prefer to see a rating with a review. So, back to rating we go. :)

  9. I am adding this to my list AS WE SPEAK (I type?!).

  10. Jessica,

    I need to learn how to put up links so I can get a commission. LOL I hope you enjoy it!

  11. I know that most professional book reviews don't rate their reviews but I like ratings my self.

    I am lookinf forward to reading this book. It doies sound really good!

    Very cute bunny. Now hop to your next review Nancy. LOL!

  12. Hi. I just gave you a blog award!. Come see.

  13. Anonymous10:04 AM

    I landed here while searching for some info on Harriet Doerr. This is great -- I'll be back.

  14. I found this book very moving, and informative as well. You are right in that the personal holocaust stories are never ending.

  15. I agree it's not easy to rate and I do my best to explain what I liked or did not like about a book.

    I cannot wait to have this book in my hands!!!

  16. Teddy Rose,

    I like seeing a rating, too. I guess I'm over my discomfort about rating books. Time to move on to the next phase -- back to ratings. :)

    A Lucky Child is really an amazing story. The biggest disappointment to me was that the author and his mother don't believe in God. It's hard for me to understand how anyone can be the beneficiary of so many miracles and think of them merely as luck, but that's just me.

    Moving right along. Next review is Holly's Inbox. :)


    Thank you! I'll dash over, in a bit!


    Thanks for dropping by! I loved Consider This Senora. Just a few days ago, I was trying to decide whether or not I should go ahead and order another Harriet Doerr book. Funny timing. :)


    "Moving and informative" is a good way to describe the book. The never-ending aspect is such a sad bite of reality.


    Yeah, I have to do a lot of thinking before rating most books. I think one of the problems I had with rating is that sometimes you close a book thinking, "This was wonderful!" but it's so unmemorable that two months down the road you feel like you should change the numbers.

  17. I have the worst time rating books, so I don't rate them either...

    This book sounds good, though! I added it to my wish list. :) Thanks for another interesting find!

  18. Kailana,

    I officially returned to rating books, today, although I haven't yet found my rating guide (because I haven't looked -- good reason, eh?). It's hard and I think sometimes you feel completely different about a book weeks or months down the road, but since I decided I really like seeing ratings at other blogs, I'm going back to rating.

    Thanks! Glad you liked the review and I hope you enjoy the book. :)

  19. I'll have to keep an eye out for this one--the last WWII memoir I read was Night, and that was years ago.

    Such a cute bunny! But it makes me sad because I accidentlly hit a rabbit on the road last week. I still feel bad about it.

  20. Laura,

    I haven't read Night, yet, although I have a ratty old copy around here, somewhere. WWII is what I sometimes refer to as my "favorite war", which sounds ridiculous but just means it's the one I most enjoy reading about. I think that has to do with the fact that my parents lived through it and it feels more real to me than ancient wars.

    Oh, noes! Poor bunny! Don't feel bad, though. My son once threatened to paint armadilloes on my van because I ran over 2 or 3 in a very short span of time (you know, the number of kills -- like they used to paint on airplanes during the war). I was so horrified. Now, I'd just say, "Armadillo for supper! All right!" I'd be kidding, of course. :)

  21. I used to read quite a lot of historical fiction about WWII, but I have switched to the Civil War. I have read little to nothing about the first World War, for some reason.

    There are lots of little brown rabbits in my neighborhood, for some reason, and sadly, there is frequently a squished one in the middle of the road. I just hate to have contributed to the roadkill :(

  22. Laura,

    I haven't read all that much about the First World War, either, but I can't say the Civil War has entirely replaced WWII -- even though I've been trying to read a lot more about it, in the past year or so.

    We don't ever see rabbits in our neighborhood and we've theorized that it must be because of the lack of leash laws and fences. I saw a dog eating something, yesterday, that I assume was either a chipmunk or a mole. If it was a mole, he's going to be sick. We just put out poison. We have to dodge squirrels in our neighborhood and there's usually a dead one lying about. I know how you feel. I hate hitting a living animal. It's a horrible feeling.

  23. oh my gosh, I want that bunny! I would absolutely have toyed with the idea of stuffing him in my carry-on luggage.

  24. Lisa,

    Hahaha, I'm not sure immigration would let you get away with that, but isn't he adorable? My favorite photo of one of the workers at our hotel in Arenal holding him -- big old dirty workers hands holding the little bunny soooo gently. It was a touching moment, really!

  25. I'm really looking forward to this book. I'd love to hold that baby bunny while I read it.

  26. Kathy,

    That's a nice thought! The baby bunny didn't seem to mind being held. It was very passive.

  27. I have started this book myself. I am already captivated. I love memoirs! It is true that one experience lends itself to as many stories as there were people experiencing it. Everyone reacts in a different way, notices different things, etc. I am glad you enjoyed this book.

  28. Rebecca,

    Me, too. I've just finished another memoir, but it's not a WWII . . . and it was a little weird. I think Holocaust memoirs area among my favorites because they remind us of how strong our inner resources really can be, you know? Happy reading!

  29. Hi, I came across your blog while searching for a pic of 'The Lucky Child'. I was going to do a 'review' or rather a comment on the book, so thought I'd see what you had to say. I'm not a professional, just enjoy reading and for some reason can't stay away from the Holocaust books...

  30. Joy,

    Me, too. I think my fascination with WWII started with a Reader's Digest article and gradually morphed into interest in Holocaust stories. Hope you enjoyed my review! Thanks for visiting. :)

  31. This was a very moving book. Thanks for the review. I posted it here.

    Diary of an Eccentric


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