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on 29 August 2017
This book is, as it says, based on a true story. The author is an Israeli novelist. The problem I found with the book was that, while it was a good yarn, it was hard to know what the factual bit was, and what were the bits the author made up to stitch together what must have been a somewhat disjointed melange of recollections into a coherent and engaging story, for it is engaging. It is definite that Gertruda Babilinska and Michael Stolovitsky are real people: the woman is actually the first entry in Grynberg's book "Księga Sprawiedliwy" (The Book of the Righteous). The broad outline is no doubt correct, but the detail is the problem. Does it stand as a serious bit of research, or is it just a good yarn. Most of the contextual detail can be pieced together from other sources, as often happens with these books, and the authors do not seem to have a detailed knowledge to support the narrative convincingly. There are numerous points where the detail is fuzzy or wrong, but the real clanger is on p.290 where Oren describes Michael visiting the Tłomackie Synagogue in 1958, trying to trace his inheritance, and being told of his father's generosity in paying for repairs to the synagogue in 1938. The problem with this account is that the Tłomackie Synagogue (or the Great Synagogue, and now the site of the Jewish Historical Institute) was blown up by the Nazis in 1943 after the failure of the Ghetto Uprising. There is another synagogue not far away from this, the only one to survive the war (the Nozyk Synagogue on Twarda Street), and it is more likely that donations were made for repairs here. No doubt Oren got some stick from critics in Israel, but I am fairly relaxed: it is a good yarn, and will have spread detail about the Righteous much further than another learned academic treatise. But when the learned academic treatise on this does come I'll be buying it.
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on 20 July 2010
Ram Oren is one of Israel's most popular authors' and indeed one of the most talented authors of the 21st century. This book is remarkable in that is non-fiction but reads like a brilliant novel. Begins with the story of the wealthy Stolowitzky family, who lose everything they own in Poland and flee to Lithuania after the Nazis and Soviets divide Poland between them in 1939.Michael Stolowitzky is only three when all this happens and his father travels to Paris to try to salvage the family business.
But Things get darker as the Nazis Einstatzgruppe sweep into Lithuania and begin the genocide of Jews there. The family disguise themselves and flee and Michael's mother suffers a fatal stroke. Michael's devoted Catholic nanny, Gertruda, promises Michael's dying mother she will always stay with the child and take him to Palestine when the war is over. Harrowing testimony of the mass murder of Jews in Eastern Europe by the Nazis, and the starvation that killed so many more innocents. The book follows on to how Michael is hidden in a Catholic orphanage and his identity hidden by a righteous Catholic Priest.

The real life story is paralleled by that of Karl Rink, who is married to a Jewess, Mira, but nonetheless out of desperation for the promising livelihood offered and patriotic fervour, agrees to join the SS. when his wife is murdered he sends their 24 year old daughter Elisheva to Palestine, out of danger from Nazi death machine, and she settles on a kibbutz in the Land of Israel.
Meanwhile Karl rink will be instrumental in saving the life of Gertruda and Michael.
Also focuses on the journey of the Exodus after World War, ruthlessly refused entrance to the Land of Israel by the British who force the ship back to Europe where many already traumatized Holocaust survivors are re-interned in Germany.
Others had been killed when British troops stormed the ships, determined that no Jew enter the Holy Land at any cost.

Beautifully written, harrowing and heartbreaking like all Holocaust memoirs, but thrilling and breathtaking at the same time as being soul-touching and revealing.Ultimately uplifting. If you read one holocaust memoir this must be the one.
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on 21 April 2016
I have read a lit of books about the holocaust and studied the subject a little but this book moved me on so many levels in the main I guess because it us as page turning and engrossing as the best novels are but it is a true story about real people and the true events in real places of the horror that engulfed them. All the way through I thought about my family and my children and the fact I wouldn't have been born at all in 1948 if the Nazis had invaded Britain. My seven grandchildren would not have been born. The book is a wonderful testament to all the people real people in it. I loved it from start to finish. It moved me so much. It made a family tree I have come to life when I read twins .. Died in the holocaust. Everyone should read this wonderful story. Really.
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on 31 May 2013
I was recommended to read this book by an Israeli friend. It is originally written in Hebrew and has been translated into English. I was immediately absorbed and remained so all the way through this page turner which, whilst being a horrifying description of the experiences of the Polish and Lithuanian Jews during the Nazi terror, is nevertheless a shining example of the human spirit at its best.
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on 3 July 2015
Amongst so much evil a really heartwarming story of love and sacrifice. When reading these stories it really makes you wonder how such atrocities took place and still are. The pity is we don't seem to have learned any lessons from history. However whilst good people like Gertrude exist we can only hope that maybe one day good will conquer evil.
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on 17 March 2013
I loved this book from start to finish. It gives a wonderful insight into life for these people. My heart was broken as I read this book!
But, the story has a wonderful end, it is not all doom and gloom. Gertruda was God's gift to this precious little Jewish boy.
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on 20 February 2014
I really enjoyed this book - at first I thought the writing was not very good but of course it is a translation and a true story. The strength and determination and loyalty of Gertruda was a joy to read and I didn't put it down for 3 days.....
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on 29 November 2013
Wonderfully written, poignant and a 'cant' put down read. I would recommend it to any of my family and friends without hesitation in learning about courage and determination and humanity.
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on 14 July 2014
Wonderful true story.Very sad in parts so get the tissues out.However it is a story of great courage and love in Europe in World War two. A great read couldn't put it down.
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on 3 February 2013
Fantastic book - couldnt put it down and the fact that it is a true story made all the more readable. A story of courage and sadness and cruelty by others.
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