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Chasing Shadows Paperback – 22 Feb 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (22 Feb. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140286616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140286618
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 96,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Amazon Review

Rabbi Hugo Gryn "came clean" in January 1978 by speaking publicly for the first time about his experience of the Holocaust and subsequently spent a year publicly speaking on the subject as though he were a witness on a stand. He was prompted to do so by the whisperings of revisionists who denied the Holocaust--regrettably as prescient a reason still to read this affecting account and those of its ilk. Where the first section is charmingly self-conscious at times, reading as a fascinating insight into pre-war life in Berehovo, a Carpathian town, towards its close the shadow of war has started to fall relentlessly, preparing us for the middle movement of this unfinished symphony. The trainee rabbi's 1951 descriptions of life at the old brick factory, Auschwitz and Lieberose display the scrupulous matter-of-factness of one compelled by catharsis to write but unable to engage: shock, in other words. This is reminiscent of Primo Levi's If This Is A Man, and the recently republished The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman and the effect is all the greater for the literalism. There are moments of dark humour, such as the new arrivals at Auschwitz (including the Gryns) laughing at the "lunatics" they find with shaven heads and grotesquely mismatched clothes, only to realise that these broken people had arrived only a week earlier. And in a moment that chills the reader's blood, who guesses what the unwitting Gryn doesn't, he walks into an extermination chamber building thinking it's a bakery and only survives a mass gassing because a guard points out that he is too old for a "shower". These are survivalist anecdotes, for that quickly became the main activity of those who returned from the camps, who grappled with awful, and often mortal, guilt over their fateful existence. That as a life Chasing Shadows is incomplete matters little; rather, the specific focus of testimonies such as Gryn's retains a relevance and imperative that brooks no indulgence or sentimentality, and thus renders the unbearable readable. This is a moving and worthy testament to an extraordinary man who taught and spoke of beauty and civilisation even after staring hard in the face of evil. --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By marty mcfly VINE VOICE on 20 July 2004
Format: Paperback
Hugo Gryn was a simply extraordinary man. After surviving the Holocaust and leaving Gunskirchen weighing just 30kilos as a 14-year old, he went on to lead a life of love and morality and of teaching, without ever preaching the rights or wrongs of man. What comes across as terribly moving is that Hugo suffered some of the greatest wrongs inflicted on man by man and yet rather than lose faith in man, he somehow found it, as he said, crying in a corner, between some boxes in Auschwitz.
This book is eminently more absorbing than that, however. We start in Berehovo, a small town in the Carpathian mountains with a thriving Jewish population. Hugo grows up with his younger brother and his parents and family all around and his story immerses us in his daily life, the Jewish practices that filled it and the community that surrounded it. But the daily life deteriorates as the Hungarians move in and join the Germans on the Eastern front. Hugo's life moves from one of discovery to one without simple freedoms or a simple carefree attitude. In time Hugo comes to Auschwitz, learns of the gas chambers and his brother's fate, sees his mother taken from him and ultimately survives the war by about 2 weeks, only to have his father die in his arms days after liberation. This is, surprisingly, one of the least detailed depictions of the atrocities the Germans inflicted and not less powerful for that. Rather, i believe it was the author's intention to show how his own spirit survived despite these things and that the focus should be on tomorrow and what we have learned and how we can use it, rather than reflecting forever on the past. Which is odd, because the book is entitled 'Chasing Shadows' which is not at all what Hugo's life or this book seem to have been about.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 Feb. 2000
Format: Hardcover
After reading this book I felt guilty for not knowing and understanding more of the Holocaust.I could not comprehend that human beings could do that to their own neighbours just because of their religious beliefs. It made me feel ashamed for not being of the Jewish faith myself...Despite the heart rendering content I felt compelled to finish it. Not a book for the light hearted bedtime reader!.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have met the subject of this book twice and heard him on radio and TV on numerous occasions but felt that I knew him better after reading this. He came across as an ordinary, clubbable man, but was, in fact, highly intelligent and well-educated but he wore his learning lightly. His life was saved on more than one occasion owing to coincidences and freak circumstances. I am glad that he lived to share his experiences with us.

His daughter has lovingly pieced together several of his writings from different stages of his life to make this into an autobiography. We get a picture of a time of immense evil during which much altruism flourished. It seems that whether good or evil wins in the end, it's up to us to choose which side we are on.

His description of village life before the Shoah and of the disgusting conditions during it are somewhat understated but I imagined what places looked like and my imagination was confirmed when I saw the photographs.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Mar. 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is a treasure - it brings back to life the voice of the sorely-missed Hugo Gryn, but it is his voice as a young man, and it tells his story as he remembered it all back then, just a very few years after the events took place. Edited lovingly by his daughter, Naomi,it is truly the story of a vanished world and of a time that must be remembered, told by a man who won't be forgotten.
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