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on 22 February 2009
This amazing and inspiring book is a fine example of choosing one's moment. Whereas some Holocaust survivors wrote their accounts shortly after their ordeal, Thomas Buergenthal waited more than 60 years after the passage of time had blunted his anger and the horrors he had witnessed and experienced. The result is a balanced and enthralling account of a child using all his means to surive the Holocaust.

Thomas, together with his parents, had been on the run from the Nazis since the age of four. He was interned in Auschwitz at the age of 10. During those years he experienced things that no human being should have to experience and especially not a child.

Through his intelligence and resourcefulness, Thomas' father Mundek kept the family together; he shrewdly anticipated when they should flee and how they could best survive. Later during his internment Thomas, was also intelligent and resourceful in his ongoing quest for survival.

In Auschwitz, Thomas' father learned from a friend that a job for Thomas could provide some protection for him. Thomas then became an errand boy, delivering messages and packages for those running the camp. In this way he often happened upon useful information and could go to many places around the camp where others could not.

Yet, Thomas was a lucky child. Many times he missed the dreaded selections either for the gas chamber or becoming one of Dr. Mengele's objects for experimentation. There were also acts of great kindness to him from others, especially from a Norwegian internee .

A particularly moving moment is when he recalls how he briefly saw his mother in the womens' camp and how he repeated their exchange and the picture of her over and over in his mind in the days to come. Even though she had lost her hair she was of course beautiful to him.

Thomas survived the death March from Auschwitz, enduring extreme cold and hunger and losing some toes to frostbite.

After the liberation and spending some time as a mascot for Polish soldiers, including his own tailor made uniform, Thomas was taken to a Jewish orphanage near Warsaw by one of the liberating Polish soldiers who was himself Jewish. Thomas spent a year there until his mother found him. During this time the children received a great deal of warmth, kindness and even education. It was a halfway house between what many had experienced during the Holocaust and to adjust them to a more normal existence.

After Thomas returned to Germany his mother employed a teacher to tutor him so that he could attend school. He had of course had virtually no formal education. This teacher was astonished that although Thomas had very little academic knowledge his level of maturity was way beyond his years. Hardly surprising.

This book is special in that it is an account of a child's experiences during the most terrible of times and yet even in that horrible place where Thomas was forced to live, there were still moments of childish pleasure and acts of great courage by him and others.

Much later Thomas turned to international law and human rights. He is now a judge at the International Court of Justice it would appear that he has created a most positive life.

Do read this book, one can't help but be left with a feeling that in spite of the ugliness to which people can be subjected, the goodness of the human spirit will prevail.
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on 21 June 2017
‘A Lucky Child’ tells the story of Thomas Buergenthal, born to a German-Jewish mother and a Polish-Jewish father in 1933 and from the age of 6 years, grew up in the Jewish ghetto of Kielce (Poland) and later in the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen. After the War he lived with his mother in Göttingen, Germany before moving to America in 1951. He eventually became a specialist in international law and human rights law and served as a judge on the International Court of Justice at The Hague from March 2000 to his resignation in September 2010. Obviously no child can be brought up surrounded by such horror and death and not be affected by it. However, what strikes me about Buergenthal’s account is his lack of bitterness and hatred, despite the authors understanding of the darker side of the human condition. He then spent the rest of his working life attempting to put into effect international human rights laws and policies to save other innocent victims from experiencing what he had experienced, believing that he had a moral obligation to devote his professional life to the protection of human rights. The account of his life under the Nazis is mainly taken from memory 50 years after the Holocaust and recounts his direct experiences. Despite the subject matter, I found this book strangely uplifting. Thomas Buergenthal survived a living hell and became a better human-being because of his experiences. I don’t think I could be so forgiving, but one thing I do know, without people like this author, the world would be a much worse place.
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on 16 July 2015
A thoroughly moving and thought provoking book. Thomas says that his survival was down to luck; perhaps it was fate, to enable him to write his book with such dignity and humility despite the horrors to which he was subjected at such a tender age. His resilience, maturity and mental toughness can only be admired. No hatred, or desire for revenge, he is a truly amazing human being.
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on 19 April 2017
The accounts presented are both shocking an unbelievable, how anyone survived is beyond imagination. This book is well written with autobiographical facts related in order throughout the war.
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on 1 May 2015
A very good true story about how a young boy managed to escape the horror of the concentration camps . A well put together story.
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on 15 June 2017
Brilliant book! Very emotional
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on 2 June 2017
Very Lucky.
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on 29 March 2009
This is such a brilliant book, I had immediately afterwards to get Odd Nansen's epitome "Day after Day" (a second hand copy was available on the internet) which mentioned his meeting at the camp "hospital" with "Tommy". How the child ever escaped the Nazis death proposals at Aushwitz, I'll never grasp - but he did and became an international lawyer, to boot! It is a book that is simple to read (as no lawyer's Brief is) and is beautifully set up: I will refrain explaining his narrative to avoid the sorrow that the book involves: suffice it to say that his terrible and deadly experience stood him wonderfully well in his eventual profession - it is a pity that most if not all other Judges do not have that colour (black through all to white) life left him with.
Do read it.
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on 15 March 2009
Unlike Primo Levi's brilliant book, 'If This Is A Man', which was written through the eyes of an adult, this is a fascinating book written through a child's eyes, but the simplicity of his narrative brings you closer to the reality of The Holocaust than many adults who went through the same experience. There are many sad moments in the book, but also many times when you want to smile or jump with joy along with Thomas as he recalls such gems as being a 'soldier' in the Polish army, firing the only round in a rusty pistol and being re-united with his dear 'Mutti'. Also, he reveals the heroism of many around him and the love they gave to him which helped him through his terrible ordeal. At times, I shed a few tears for them as well as for Thomas. One of the things I found most poignent about this book were the numerous photographs that helped me relate to Thomas and his family and friends. I will be visiting Aushwitz/Birkenhau (for the second time) in May 2009 and I will take the book with me as a tribute to Thomas and for his many relatives and friends who were not 'A Lucky Child'. The title is a paradox, but an understandable one when you have read this brilliant book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about this awful moment in the history of mankind.
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on 24 May 2010
The title of this book will become clearer the more that you read, at every turn of his holocaust experience Thomas manages to survive when it seems almost impossible. You will question how much this was down to his own initative and how much is down to pure luck.
Thomas manages to tell his story with two voices, that of the child he was and that of the adult he now is looking back on what was really going on.
As with any Holocaust biography, there are many scenes that are horrific, but this just makes it all the more important that these stories are heard.
You will cry and you will cheer as you experience this boys amazing fight for survival.
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