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5.0 out of 5 stars Juden Arbeit Macht Frei
Juden Stephen Briggs (James Stephens)

Format: Word doc
Category: Fiction (General/Historical)
Length: 64,000 words approx

Juden is a powerful novel set during the Holocaust. A combination of tragedy and against-the-odds survival adventure, it focuses on one Jewish family caught up in the genocide, and the determined efforts of their teenage...
Published on 24 Oct. 2012 by Steve

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Without doubt, the worst book I've ever read
Quite simply, this book was junk. It can surely only have been written by a 10-year old. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar aside, I soon became bored of the same tired phrases such as "Jacob, my brave boy" and "who would like some chocolate?" So much hot chocolate, even in Auschwitz. Who knew? Also for the life of me, I cannot imagine one Jewish death camp inmate saying...
Published on 28 Feb. 2013 by Davyloyal


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5.0 out of 5 stars Juden Arbeit Macht Frei, 24 Oct. 2012
Juden Stephen Briggs (James Stephens)

Format: Word doc
Category: Fiction (General/Historical)
Length: 64,000 words approx

Juden is a powerful novel set during the Holocaust. A combination of tragedy and against-the-odds survival adventure, it focuses on one Jewish family caught up in the genocide, and the determined efforts of their teenage son to escape.

Author James Stephens (real name Stephen Briggs) is an experienced writer with some award-winning poetry and two well-received thrillers (Through the Eyes of a Fly and The Tattooist, published in the US) to his name - his real name, that is; both books were published under `Steve Briggs', whereas for Juden he is adopting the pen name James Stephens, presumably because this novel is a bit of a change of direction for him.

Despite having thriller/adventure elements in it, Juden has a weight of grave and earnest feeling behind it. The Holocaust appears to exert an exceptional pull on the author; indeed, in his preface he floats his theory that the Nazis' motive for starting off the Second World War was to provide a smokescreen for the extermination of the Jews. I dare say historians would pick holes in that theory, but there is no doubting what it says about the emotional force behind this author's fictional take on the Holocaust.

The smokescreen theory doesn't actually feature in the story, by the way; it isn't that kind of novel. Rather, it's the story of one family's experience, their journey from well-to-do middle-class security to persecution, horror, death and, just possibly, survival against the odds.

The principal character is Jacob Horowitz, the adolescent son of a happy, contented Polish-Jewish family, presided over by Isaac, a successful restaurateur. Living in Warsaw, Jacob, his parents and his baby sister have been accustomed to a life of secure domesticity, and it is thus that we find them when the novel's opening chapter introduces them - it's September 1939, and the Germans have just invaded Poland. Jacob's father, Isaac, is confident that the Polish forces will soon kick the invaders out. He is quickly, startlingly and terrifyingly proved wrong when battle erupts outside their very windows. But hope is maintained, and only gradually worn down as the Germans press on and consolidate their invasion.

And so begins the programme of persecution: the restrictions on Jews, the hardships, and the Ghetto, into which the Horowitz family are rounded up along with the other Jews, to begin their new lives of hardship, deprivation and oppression. The novel describes their experiences in vivid, lifelike detail; also, the author tackles head-on the issue of collaboration by some Jews who policed their own people and thereby helped facilitate the Nazi atrocities.

The story returns to this uncomfortable but dramatically compelling theme when the scene eventually shifts to Auschwitz. In a desperate bid to save his family, Isaac draws upon his talents as a chef, cooking exquisite food for the camp commandant. In return, he and his family are spared the fate of other Jews, and manage to survive for several years.

They can't escape the horror entirely, though, nor indeed forever. Jacob, who has grown into his teens by now, is incorporated into the Sonderkommando, the `work units', composed almost entirely of Jews, who are forced (as a way of preserving their own lives) to do the dreadful work of clearing out the death chambers following gassings, and disposing of the corpses of their fellows. In 1944, Jacob takes part in a great rebellion at Auschwitz (this was a real-life episode, in which a large number of Sonderkommando fought against the guards, killing and injuring many of them and destroying some of the extermination facilities). In the course of the rebellion, Jacob manages to escape from the camp, and embarks on a tense existence as a fugitive in the Polish countryside.

His parents, despite being told Jacob is dead, are intuitively convinced that he's still alive, and while being forced to take part in the `clean-up' of the death camp as the Soviet army presses into Poland, they hope that their heroic son will come and save them (this element of the story is played out in a sequence of mystical dreams). And so he eventually does. Making contact with a unit of the Soviet army, Jacob becomes a sort of guide, and is there when the army reaches Auschwitz. There, to his eternal joy, he finds his parents and sister still alive.

The novel ends with a `big-picture' narrative of the end of the war and the post-war fate of the Jewish survivors. The fictional tale is wrapped up in an epilogue in which the Horowitz family emigrate to New York, where they intend to begin a chocolate business.

It's quite unusual for Holocaust fiction to end in such a way, with an uplifting, heartwarming resolution; Holocaust writers generally focus unflinchingly on the tragedy and atrocity of the period, in which happy endings almost never occurred. But there were happy endings, albeit vanishingly rarely. There may even have been endings like this one, in which whole families survived, and it's probably about time a novel got written about such a story. I suspect that some critics may take issue with this, but there's no doubt that many readers will appreciate it.

It would certainly be difficult to argue that Juden shies away from the grim realities: they are described in detail. One of the impressive features of Juden is the investment in circumstantial detail, which is quite intense considering that the novel isn't a long or cumbersome one. The author has gone to great lengths to create a sense of period and place. In addition to the scenic and circumstantial descriptions, which are vivid, there are verbatim quotations (such as the full text of Chamberlain's broadcast to Poland following the declaration of war) and some passages of dialogue rendered in the original languages, including German and Russian (with translations given). The Russian passages are even done in Cyrillic text.

In sum, then, Juden is a rare mixture of shocking Holocaust drama with suspenseful, lively and ultimately heartwarming adventure. It's an interesting and engaging take on the Holocaust genre, a good read and worthy of notice. I recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breathtaking read, 2 May 2013
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This review is from: Juden Arbeit Macht Frei (Kindle Edition)
A book that I couldn’t put down. Can’t quite believe the atrocities these people went through, doesn’t seem real somehow until you read books like this. Would recommend highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Holocaust, 10 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Juden Arbeit Macht Frei (Kindle Edition)
Words cannot describe the horror that all those unfortunate people went through. After reading much on the subject, I find it difficult to understand how such a large population, and indeed the people that undertook such appalling deeds, went along with the `final solution` and evidentally, in some cases, actually enjoyed such sadistic brutality as is related in this tragic account. God forbid that anything like this should ever happen again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very moving true story, 18 May 2013
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This review is from: Juden Arbeit Macht Frei (Kindle Edition)
unable to put the book down once started if you like a true story of life in the camps this is it.by reading this account I have a better idea what it was like
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lest we forget, 8 Jan. 2013
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It is chilling to read of the events of certain parts of the WW11. Most novels deal with the dash and glory of our hero's,This author has the courage to deal with
people in conditions that would defeat most of us.The story is harrowing but absorbing, from the innocent opening through the realism of the awakening, and the final relief.I found it difficult to put down. I will be watching for other work by this author James Stephens.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 31 Jan. 2013
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Such a realistic insight into such atrocities endured by one Jewish family, an amazingly emotional read, truly haunting and an unforgettable book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely amazing, 12 Feb. 2013
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I loved this book.... I couldn't put it down so many emotions carry you through the troubles of a families struggle to stay together and survive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, 29 April 2013
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What so many people suffered at the hands of a brutal regime this is about one of the few families who made it through despite their ordeal
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good, could not put down, 24 April 2013
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I absolutely loved this book which was quite harrowing at times. I have had a real insight of what happened and what it must have been like.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very sad, 18 Feb. 2013
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Great book,very sad, but full of hope all the way through,a true story that will leave you with a lot to think about highly recommended.
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