on 19 December 2016
Before I begin I would like to ensure that you, the potential reader of this book, is aware of the following: Eva’s story is a more complete and rounded, on the whole, account of the holocaust and contains, in parts, information regarding to Otto and Anne Frank and therefore, to fully understand the story, I advise reading The Diary Of Anne Frank prior to reading this book so that you fully understand all of the events and history that Eva talks about in regards to Anne and Otto.
The Diary Of Anne Frank laid bare the entire horror that was the life of a young girl in hiding and what I took away from it most was a deep saddening that one day a girl was to sit at her desk in her room and write to Kitty for the next to be discovered and ushered of on the last transport, ever, from Westerbrook to Auschwitz and, sadly, wouldn’t not survive to see past the holocaust. Of course there are coubrikantless numbers of people of whom suffered the worst of fates, simply for existing, at the hands of the Nazi’s however reading Anne’s account of the war, holocaust and alike is simply heart wrenching. Advancing forward and after reading Eva’s account of the holocaust, both before and after it, I find that it has enabled a settling in my inner emotion that the Anne Frank Diary sparked and that it provides, somewhat, closure.
The first thing, and the note I first made while reading in preparation for a review, was the dehumanisation of the Jews laid in plain sight. The encounter that Eva discusses of her as a child being fondled by a man while fleeing and the housekeeper and landlord, Madame Le Blanc, doing nothing because he was a long standing resident shook me greatly. I cannot, for all my attempts, comprehend how child abuse is any less horrific because the child is Jewish. The hate towards the Jewish that was instilled in the Nazi’s it truly beyond comprehension to I.
I learnt a lot of Eva’s account about her time at Auschwitz. For example how Auschwitz was for the males and Birkenau was for the females. I’ve visited Auschwitz previously but Eva’s account details the operation of the camp in ways that the remains that stand before you today could not. At the end of the book Eva talks about how in thirty years time no one of whom suffered at the hands of the Nazi’s in Auschwitz will be alive and eventually Auschwitz itself will be reduced to rubble by nature and it brings a deep saddening in me that the fate of both is set in stone. Already Auschwitz has deteriorated greatly from what it was during its time in operation and the remains are scatted here and there and, again, it saddens me that future generations, because of nature, may not one day be able to see in plain sight the true horror that once occurred on the sight. Although, as Eva herself goes on to say, her support is only for visits to Auschwitz on educational purposes and cannot otherwise understand it. An opinion formed on the fact she herself was once a prisoner inside I feel and that the opinions of those and reasons for visiting to people of whom where not around at the time will never be entirely side by side with those of the survivors.
Eva’s story during Auschwitz was, as the book says, a lottery of luck and a mothers love. Mutti, as Eva refers to her mother, was at one point selected to be gassed however the decision was later reversed and I believe, if I’ve wrote the note down right, was due to Evvi of whom worked in the camp hospital, red cross as Evvi calls it, and again, if I’ve wrote it down correctly, was a cousin of Mutti.
Talking about the Red Cross inside the camp, something I was not aware of, was laid bare when Eva talks about arriving at the camp and the Nazi’s bringing cars telling the Jews of whom are too tired to walk that they’ll drive them to the camp gates whereas in reality they headed straight to the gas chambers because this was a test by the Nazi’s to weed out the ones of whom where too tired and unfit to walk or work. As Eva’s father told her the Germans, at the point Eva arrived in the camp, where suffering during the war and they needed the Jews in the camps to do the labour and make up for the loss in numbers they where otherwise suffering. Also that the Red Cross, the hospital, was well known to kill anyone of whom walked inside and that it was pure fate that Eva got medication in the first place for her illness rather than gassed. Evvi was instrumental in their survival inside the camp. The words that Eva wrote about Jews saying “we’ll see you down there” as they drove of towards the gas chambers is haunting.
Eva’s account also lays bare that Auschwitz was a monopoly of life for everyone and that no one had the winning formula and that surviving as long as liberation took was luck alone. Eva’s account of working in Canada, the section that Jews worked in to separate the belongings of killed prisoners to be deported to Berlin, plaid, also, a huge part in her and Mutti’s survival because without her brave question of asking “Can I take my mother?” when selected to work in Canada who knows what would have happened to Mutti. An event, Eva says, that speaking to a SS officer was out of the norm and therefore, took back by this, is the only reason the SS officer agreed of course not knowing he’d helped seat Mutti’s survival for one further step. The account of having faeces thrown over her and not allowed to shower for two entire days further instils in plain sight the dehumanisation of the Jews during the holocaust.
Eva’s account of the death march and liberation is a piece of written history I would advise to read. What I learnt while reading was that the Nazi’s had attempted to march all prisoners on many occasions however multiple air raid sirens and advancing Russian’s prevented them from doing so. Hitler wanted all able bodied prisoners from Auschwitz to head, on the death march, towards Berlin. After being halted and attempted to get going many times Eva eventually told Mutti they’d wait inside the hospital section and sleep for the night rather than go to see if anyone noticed, a lotter ticket that the next day meant they’d survived the holocaust and avoided the death march altogether because as Eva writes one day they guards where there and everything was occupied and the next it was a ghost town abandoned in an instant. A particularly interested, to me, read was that of the time between the Nazi’s leaving and liberation for she talks about walking about the camp freely, raiding food piles and finding clothes to wear as well as being one of the few fit enough to perform a task of lifting something when asked, a true idea into how many had worn down to skin and bone. The Nazi’s returned during this stage for different reasons although left again. Eventually the Russian’s deported prisoners out of Auschwitz behind their lines because the Nazi’s where fighting back rather than retreating entirely and, at one point, the idea to the Russian’s that they might take Auschwitz back was not out of the question.
Eva’s account also talks more about Otto the man rather than the image that Anne’s diary leaves you with as just Anne’s father. How he found comfort with Mutti and how, together, they worked all their lives to ensure the Diary Of Anne Frank was made public and got the attention it deserved. I was shocked however to read just how hard this task was made by holocaust deniers in that some people claimed Otto had made the diary up altogether and many other lies and such caused many stresses in family life and had a knock on effect of the years after having the diary scrutinised by various officials for it’s authenticity, what a horrid process to have to endure.
Eva’s story also leaves behind many physical possessions: Heinz’s painting, Russian uniform and more listed towards the end of her story. I find an inner warmth that Eva managed to find her brother’s paintings under the floor boards of a house post holocaust and connect, in a way, them again. Also that because the house Eva lived in in Amsterdam opposite from Anne Frank, before they both went into hiding, was registered in a Christians name they returned to find all of, just as they’d left it, untouched and awaiting return although throughout the book post holocaust talks about not knowing her home really was and that finding a place to settle after the holocaust was not easy for even Mutti suffered with knowing where she really wanted to be and live.
Also provides insight into the horrible NHS system that offered, after suffering a stroke, to let Mutti starve to death in their care and thankfully Eva, eventually, took Mutti home and she died in a familiar place surrounded by family in 1998.
I spend hours reading approx. 170-200 pages in one sitting and found myself totally engrossed in Eva’s account.
A book that will never leave my collection and I thank Eva entirely, and those of whom she worked with, to bring it to us and leave, as her legacy, for the future generations to come.