(Cover picture courtesy of My Shelf Confessions.)
Eva Mozes Kor was just 10 years old when she arrived in Auschwitz. While her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, she and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man known as the Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele. Subjected to sadistic medical experiments, she was forced to fight daily for her and her twin’s survival. In this incredible true story written for young adults, readers will learn of a child’s endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil.
The book also includes an epilogue on Eva’s recovery from this experience and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis.Through her museum and her lectures, she has dedicated her life to giving testimony on the Holocaust, providing a message of hope for people who have suffered, and working for causes of human rights and peace.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Just so we’re all on the same page here I want you to know that this a review of Eva Mozes Kor’s YA version of her memoir Echoes From Auschwitz. Surviving the Angel of Death is meant for a teen or more sensitive audience because it does not go into as much graphic detail as her full memoir does. There are still nightmarish scenes considering the subject matter, but keep in mind that this particular version is more YA-friendly.
Eva and Miriam are twins in Hungary when the Second World War breaks out. Since they’re Jewish, Eva shows us how things steadily got worse for her family before they were finally rounded up and eventually sent to Auschwitz. Being twins, they heard the cry of “Zwillinge!” (Twins!) as the soldiers selected who would live and who would die. They were the ‘lucky’ ones, the ones chosen by Dr. Joseph Mengele for his twin experiments at Auschwitz.
We learn about the horrible conditions the twins were kept in even though they were ‘special’ and the experiments they were subjected to during their stay at Auschwitz. What really struck me about this memoir is the description of Dr. Mengele: “My first thought was how handsome he was, like a movie star.” It really brings home the fact that these atrocities were not committed by movie villain caricatures, but by real people. For a young adult first learning about the Holocaust, I dare say that would be a rude awakening. But it really drives home the point that the Holocaust did happen and that the atrocities we all hear about now were committed by people just like us.
What I found the best about Surviving the Angel of Death was that Eva Mozes Kor wrote about the liberation of Auschwitz and included information about where she and Miriam ended up later on. She includes snippets of later on in her life where she started campaigning for Holocaust awareness and how she came to publicly forgive the Nazis. It’s an intense personal journey and it’s one I’m glad she’s sharing in a more young adult friendly manner. Obviously I’m not saying teens can’t read her full memoir, but rather that I think this is a good book if teens are just starting to learn about the Holocaust.
The formatting on my Kindle was a little weird at times, but that didn’t even register for me. The fact is that this is an extremely emotional, honest memoir about one of the darkest periods in human history. It’s well-written and informative, which is what it should be. I would highly recommend it to teens who are just starting to learn about the Holocaust or sensitive people who don’t feel they’re ready for the full version.
I give this book 5/5 stars.
***A note on comment moderation: I know the Holocaust is an extremely sensitive topic, especially on the internet. It’s also one that I personally am extremely sensitive about, for reasons I don’t want to discuss. Therefore, I will be moderating all comments on this post with a heavy hand and will forewarn you that any Holocaust denying comments will be deleted for sheer ignorance. Yes, this is censorship and no, I don’t care in this particular case.