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Treblinka: A Survivor's Memory
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
There's no redemption for Treblinka, it was a death camp, created for one purpose; the destruction and disposal of as many victims as possible. In Treblinka death and disposal became mechanised, the whole process being controlled by "elite" Nazi's and run by bullying, sadistic guards. Because of the secretive nature of the "work" undertaken in Treblinka very few people survived to tell the tale, working parties were routinely murdered to ensure their silence, and the fact that "Chil" survived to bring us this testament is a miracle in itself. Chil's account is written in his own words and he spares us no horror, he doesn't shy away from any of the evil he witnessed and the simplicity of his words running through the pure evil of those events is so powerful, it's humbling. Nothing I've read has moved me more than this book, nothing ever will, and I found myself torn in two because I didn't want to put it down but, at the same time, I didn't want to carry on reading. Shocking beyond words, harrowing, brutal but ultimately a text that deserves global recognition not just because of it's rarity, but out of respect for Chil Rajchman who survived against all the odds to bring us this testament. Literary and historical gold.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2012
It's hard to imagine that a simple decision to lie about one's vocation and skills could ever save your life - but this is exactly what happened to Chil Rajchman when, recovering from a severe whipping, he was faced with a life or death decision on his first day at Treblinka - although at the time he didn't realise its gravitas, he held his hand up and declared himself a skilled barber - that one decision, and four others like him, enabled him to survive that first gruelling day.

One cannot stress the importance a document such as "Treblinka: A survivor's Memory" holds in our history; our very being. Without it, and others of its ilk, we would remain to this day uneducated as to the severity of what transpired in camps such as Auschwitz, Sobibór, Be''ec and Treblinka - to name but a few. The mass genocide, the rapes, the brutality, the starvation, the sheer ignominy of the SS and the Ukrainian "murderers" as Chil Rachjman put it - helped shape our lives ensuring no such depravity occurs ever again - we live in hope.

Treblinka: A survivor's Memory is a poignant account of one man's struggle to not only see life one day at a time but to make every second count - survival was by no means guaranteed. By appearing to be sick, taking too long to cut a woman's hair, taking too long to complete an instruction or simply by standing up tall - you would be taken to one side, forced to strip and summarily executed on the spot to cries of laughter and merriment from the on looking officers who considered it nothing more than a sport.

The sheer brutality of this book forces one to take stock and look at one's life and truly appreciate the comforts we take for granted on a daily basis. We live in an age where groceries can be purchased seven days a week, water - clean and purified at that - is available on tap and a doctor is a mere telephone call away. Rajchman and other prisoners in camps like Treblinka had no such luxury where muddy water (if they could get it) and meagre bread rations the norm.

Rajchman's authenticity is unquestionable in Treblinka: A survivor's Memory, his words and passion have lost little significance and power from its Yiddish origin - respectfully translated by Solon Beinfeld. We gain a unique insight into what life was like for the thousands who had the misfortune to spend time within the six metre high barbed wire fences that surrounded Treblinka. The daily whippings, the shooting, the depravity and perhaps most of all - their dignity. How on earth do you make it through one day faced with a relentless barrage of abuse from the SS soldiers? It's impossible to even remotely understand what people like Chil went through but documents such as this and Vassily Grossman's essay "The Hell of Treblinka" - also included in the book - go some ways to helping us understand these atrocities.

Treblinka: A survivor's Memory is a heart-breaking account of one man's struggle to survive against all odds. Powerful and passionate at best, depraved and horrific at worst, it serves to remind us all a fraction of the price people like Chil Rajchman paid for the freedom we so take for granted today. I urge you to pick up this book - whether from your local library or bookstore - the significance of remembrance and understanding cannot be overemphasized.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
I could not put this book down. People ask why i read such books that upset me. I can only answer that i need to. I'm a very compassionate person ...i love all living creatures and cannot understand why we treat other and other creatures so badly and so cruelly. Books, such as Treblinka, answer some of my questions but they don't make me understand why, when all that has gone before, we are still destroying our world and each other today. Chil Rajchman questions why he writes about such things...his answer..."to turn away, to close ones eyes and walk past is to insult the memory of those who have perished"....page 165..Treblinka.
All people should read such fantastic works...we can only learn from them. Do it! x
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2013
I read this book straight after reading Spectator in hell which shocked me however this very personal account goes so much further and left me feeling both angry and very sad for all those poor souls who were murdered by a group of insane people without soul. There is no justification in the world for the events that took place during this period of human history and I would implore the younger generation to read this book and reflect upon what we as human beings can be capable off . Very powerful and reflective account that will stay with me for a long time. Thanks to the very brave individuals who have managed to tell their stories and who have been so strong in life . I really admire and empathise with you.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2012
What can I say!...this book ought to be read. At 71 years old , although I had a general appreciation of the holocaust it was not until I read this chilling book that it really came home to me the absolute horror and the suffering of all these poor people. And who is to say this will not happen again. In general terms our young people today have absolutely no idea what went on. God help us.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Having read the story of Hershal ? I was interested to read this account, and I was not disappointed. It is a revelation to know exactly what pain and distress these poor people went through at the hands of the Nazis. They had to endure so much and were treated worse than animals,that the uprising was not at all surprising. These accounts should be part of the school curriculum so that youngsters learn the true facts of the way these people were treated. Heart rending, and almost unbearable to read. We must never let these facts get buried - it is vital that they are remembered and posted for posterity. There but for the grace of God go I - so true.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2012
It was very difficult to put this book down, it was like reading a horror film, to think that this actually happened, I still can not get my head round why so many men at the same time could be so inhuman to a fellow human, including the women and children. And then to go home on leave to see their own families as if nothing had happened,. I am glad that I read it I now spread the words of the book to let other people know exactly what occured.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2013
A shocking narrative which describes the horrors of life in the Jewish death camp Treblinka, mans inhumanity to man and what the human spirit can endure. Essential reading.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 2012
This is the tale of the most evil place which has ever existed on Earth - worse even than Auschwitz. I don't, myself, have any personal connection with the Holocaust - I'm a Gentile interested in Jewish history and culture.

Only about 70 people are believed to have survived Treblinka. About three-quarters of a million died there. Chil Rajchman was one of those band of few survivors. He wrote his memoir within months of his miraculous escape from the death-camp.

Rajchman was one of the small number of deportees detained from his train to 'work' in the camp. The rest were sent straight to the gas chamber. He survives for just over a year in appalling conditions 'working' first as a 'barber', shearing the locks of the doomed, and then as a 'dentist', extracting corpses' gold teeth.

We see the camp and its inhabitants vividly through the author's eyes: the idiosynchrasies of individual SS officers; the humanity of prisoners with whom the narrator fleetingly interacts before they go to their deaths; the watch-tower and barbed wire; the attractive buildings in which the gas chambers are housed; above all, the sheer, unimaginable horror of the day-to-day operation of the camp. One of the most tear-jerking scenes is when the narrator is sorting the clothes of the dead the day after his own arrival, and finds his sister's dress. To call the book 'harrowing' would be an understatement - there isn't a descriptive word in the English language, I'm glad to say, that is quite adequate to the task. I was physically shaking as I read it.

Unbelievably, though, it is an uplifting book. That anyone could have survived this as Rajchman did is testment to the indestructibility of the human soul and the nobility of the Hebrew race. I only hope those responsible for this are burning in Hell.
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on 1 July 2015
I don't like saying I 'enjoyed' the book bearing in mind it's subject matter.However it WAS a good read and gave one must assume an honest account of what it WAS like to have to survive that place of evil on a daily basis. I wondered what may have been going through Himmlers mind when he visited the camp and stood over the trenches containing the most recently murdered prisoners? I believe he was already thinking about how HE was going to escape the nearing Russians and other allies apart from of course removing all traces of what had been happening in this hell? The ONLY part of the book I found distasteful and un-acceptable was the verbal attack on Pope Pious XII by Vasily Grossman and the comments he made. I know the Pope was seen by many people including authors and the like to have stood by and done nothing while the Nazis were carrying out their work for their AntiChrist of a leader. Equally there are others, including many Jews who proclaimed that the Pope WAS openly critical of the Naziz, DID encourage the German Resistance, DID lobby leaders of many countries to avoid War and DID order ALL priests, bishops etc to provide 'discreet aid' to Jews and others being systematically erased by the Nazis.Overtly,he maintained a neutral stance for himself and the Vatican and THIS is what led to his being criticised. His actions however saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and THIS fact was raised in his support by none other than the Israeli Foreign Minister. Also Grossman is known to have 'over-emphasised' the actual number of prisoners who were murdered in Treblinka on several occasions.
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