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I Have Lived a Thousand Years Paperback – 5 Jun 2000
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The author was 13 when the Nazis took Hungary. In intimate and excruciating detail, Livia Bitton-Jackson describes how her young life was transformed by her experiences, from suspension from school to surviving the horrors of Auschwitz.
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At the age of 13 Ellie witnessed the invading Nazis sweeping into her town and the life of the family was turned upside down. Ellie as particularly upset at her brand new bicycle being taken way by the Nazis, together with all of the families positions as happened to all Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe before they were deported.
She describes the heart wrenching scene where she sees her father for the last time before he is deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz. Ellie and her mother are later deported to Theresienstadt ghetto where they face starvation and extreme deprivation and then to the horrors of Auschwitz which she describes in horrific detail, in this factual and at the same time human and sensitive account.
She describes the great suffering of the Jews in Auschwitz and the unbelievable brutality of the Nazis.
She survived because a Nazi officer was intrigued by her blond hair and passed her onto the section of those who would be set to work rather than be sent straight away to be exterminated in the gas chambers.
She describes her sadness, through her own starvation and suffering of seeing a consignment of small Jewish children, still pretty and fresh faced, having been newly arrived in Auschwitz and sent straight to their deaths in the gas chambers.
Through her determination and series of miracles Ellie and her mother (who she took great care of and rescued) survived the Holocaust, as did her brother Bubi.
but not before an ambush of the survivors by retreating Nazi forces after it became clear that Nazi Germany had lost the war.
After surviving Auschwitz Elie looked sixty years old, according to a German women from a nearby village, who met the survivors The woman was shocked to discover that Elie was only 14 years old.
After the war Elie desperately wanted to go to the Land of Israel which she knew was the only true home of the Jewish people , and that even in the USA they would really always be foreigners. Millions of Jewish survivors waited for certification that they would be allowed into what was then still British ruled 'Palestine'.
But as she did not want to be separated from her family she went with them to New York instead in 1951. Even as the Jewish refugees arrived in New york the all sand Hatikvah, the Zionist anthem. Sung by so many thousands of Holocaust survivors.
Livia dedicated this book the the children of Israel today who 'unclaimed and unsung risk their lives everyday, just by travelling to school in Judea, Samaria and Gaza for the sake of a secure peace in Israel-the only guarantee that a holocaust will never happen again"
Their story began with the German invasion of Budapest in 1944. Their business had already been confiscated and they were regularly harassed by the Hungarian authorities. Next, their valuables were taken and they had to wear an identifying yellow star which was also painted on the wall of their house. Finally, they were evicted to the ghetto at Nagymagyar, hundreds, cramped into tiny spaces with only the food they had brought with them, enclosed by guarded fencing.
Ellie's beloved father was taken to a labour camp and the rest of the family was subsequently moved out to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. All children and the elderly were gassed, while women from 16 to 45 were sent to do hard labour. Ellie was advised to lie about being 14 and her blonde hair helped too.
There follows a painful introduction into the gruelling life of the camp, food is scarce and standing in the cold awaiting roll call could take several hours.
I was not aware that inmates moved about from camp to camp so much, but Ellie and her mother underwent a number of long journeys in train wagons, with no food or water for days, as they were shunted around between camps.
This is an awe inspiring account of survival that I am so glad to have had the opportunity to read. I highly recommend this book to young adults and adults alike.
Ellie and her family are Jewish, and suffer many atrocities when the Germans invade Budapest. The family business is confiscated. Their valuables are taken. They are ordered to be identified as Jewish by wearing a yellow star, and neighbours and friends now shun them. They are first evacuated to Nagymagyar, then moved to Auschwitz, then moved again and again, overcrowded on trains.
There are rare kindnesses, including advice to 14 year old Ellie to say that she is 16, which saves her from being sent to the gas chamber, but mostly there are unremitting atrocities and cruel behavior by guards. Food, and even water, is insufficient - thirst becomes so bad that inmates will drink from rainwater puddles. Punishment can be vicious for even the slightest infraction of the rules. Showing any health weakness can result in being gassed.
When the Americans finally liberate the few survivors of the latest train journey, with shaved heads and emaciated from inadequate food, they are shocked by their appearance, and actually have to ask whether they are male or female.
This is a very moving story, absolutely chilling
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