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The Cap, or The Price of a Life Paperback – 6 Jul 2000

5.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New edition edition (6 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753810964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753810965
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 537,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Roman Frister is a journalist living in Israel. He was editor and a reporter on the Israeli daily newspaper Ha¿aretz and now runs the School of Journalism in Tel Aviv.


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I first came across this book in a German translation, and it grabbed my attention from the first line. This somewhat different account from a survivor's point of view may be regarded controversial in Israel, where many of other survivors now live, however, I consider it a touching report of human misery and human desire to live. The book is a compulsory read for the younger generation, to learn and to understand. Readers will come away from it with the conviction that events like the holocaust must never ever be repeated.
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This is a masterpiece. If you've ever asked yourself how people survived through the holocaust, or for that matter any other horrendous disasters here is one answer. This is the story of Roman Frister, born in Poland in the late 1920s and a teenager when the war began and ripped through his life and that of everyone he knew.
Its the story not only of how he survived and how the normal experience of the holocaust for Polish Jews was death. It is also an account of his life after the war, which by any standards was, to say the least a full one. He gives no explanations for his survical except a belief in luck and an unexplained and inexplicable life force that he possesses. His account of being made to stand at attention for eight hours between electric wires in frozen weather is searingly memorable.
More than anything though, what shines from these pages is a brutal honesty. The story of the title about The Cap is only one of many incidents reflecting the overriding desire to live. The only heroes in this book are those who were there when Roman needed their help. Although this point is not pressed, it is very clear that he forgot none of them, and did his best to help them, especially after the war, when he could.
For Poles too this is uncomfortable reading. Poles need to read this as it is by a man who once thought of himself as a patriotic Pole AND a Jew. His Polish friends though saw him as a Jew first and foremost. His descriptions of what led him to leave Poland are striking, as indeed is his account of the mass murder by pro-Nazi Polish partisans of Jews who had escaped from a labour camp. He clearly loves Poland, but did Poland love him?
The Cap goes beyond most Holocaust literature.
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a work of enormous importance in understanding a mind frozen with the horrors witnessed and endured. the description of longing for his father's death before the mouldy crust under his mattress becomes totally inedible, told with such blank and emotionless words is something one cannever forget. the way in which he writes of the horrors in words stripped of emotion makes it possible to endure the telling of this important tale.
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Roman Frister's autobiographical account of his childhood as a spoilt, bourgeois Jewish boy in Berlin, who is taken to concentration camp during World War II is nothing short of a masterpiece.

His clear-eyed account of his experiences in the war will have you gripped. More than that, his story is underpinned by Frister's belief in moral contingencies, which makes this book much more important than an ordinary memoir from a lesser writer.

In an interview I heard him describe an incident in concentration camp, when a doctor was ordered to murder several hundred prisoners by injecting them with phenol. The doctor pretended to inject some of those lined up, who later escaped. Those saved thought he was a hero, but after the war he was condemned as a war criminal for the half that he had killed. This incident is not in the book, but other dilemmas are.

You are swept along in sympathy, although Frister makes it clear that he believes that he survived when others did not, precisely because he was spoiled and selfish. Just when you think this is survivor's guilt, he anticipates you and knocks down the arguments you have set up in your head.

The book is exceptionally well-written, with a spareness drawn from Frister's training as a journalist, informed by his profound intelligence.

A superb book that deserves to be widely read
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