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A Time to Speak Hardcover – May, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This slender book is another worthy addition to the shelf of Holocaust memoirs. Lewis, a Czech Jewish dancer and choreographer, was living a pleasant life of the arts with her husband, Paul, when the Nazis annexed Czechoslovakia and introduced Germany's anti-Jewish laws. Lewis describes the rapid descent from middle-class comfort as she and her family and friends found themselves barred from most public accomodations, forced to wear the hated yellow star, placed under curfew, stripped of jobs and belongings (even pets), and finally transported to the ghetto of Terezin, a way station to the death camps. From her arrival at Terezin and later at Auschwitz to the end of the war, Lewis struggled with health problems that threatened to speed her to the gas chambers. Her talent as a dancer saved her life, attracting the eye of a brutal female camp commander. Much of what is here is not new, but Lewis's flat, dispassionate prose gives the book's grimmest moments an unholy power. This book is a useful reminder of what can happen if hatred runs unchecked in seemingly civilized societies.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Two women speak out in personal memoirs about their experiences during the Holocaust. Both led secure, assimilated Jewish lives before the war--Lewis in Prague and Bonin in Berlin. The coming of the Nazis shattered the worlds they knew forever. Lewis gives a vivid firsthand account of her life as a young married dancer in Prague. Her bliss ended the day German troops entered Prague (March 15, 1939). Lewis and her husband, Paul, were sent to the ghetto at Theresienstadt (or Terezin) along with the entire Jewish population of Bohemia and Moravia. After Terezin came Auschwitz, where she was separated from her husband, who later died. She survived, in an almost surreal way, by using her skills to choreograph Coppelia for the commandant's Christmas party. After the war, Lewis remarried and became involved in dance again. Bonin's father told her for the first time that she and the family were Jewish in 1933, when she was 12. She escaped to Palestine, where she worked on a kibbutz as a pioneer; she went on to fight on the side of the British, based in Alexandria, Egypt. The narrative in this section of the book consists of letters to Bonin from her parents until the outbreak of the war and the diaries that she kept during the years she spent in the British Army, 1942-46. In 1947 she came to America, where she has been an academic. Both books are examples of extraordinary courage and defiance. Recommended for all libraries.
- Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, Md.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Pub; 1st Carroll & Graf ed edition (May 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786700688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786700684
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,951,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By @WritingOnACloud on September 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Quite recently, I wrote a blog post for my website, in which I claim that five books changed my life; that’s to say, five books may have formed just who I am today – to a certain degree, at any rate; as much as books can.

But for any avid reader, what a decision to have to make – to be limited to five books only!

Helen Lewis’ Time to Speak exemplifies the difficulty of such a choice. My five books are all classics, the ‘newest’ being written in 1958, and they’re all fiction… so where would Helen Lewis fit in?

Never mind that, Time to Speak should still be regarded as a timeless classic.

I’ve read a few fiction/non fiction books depicting the Holocaust, but never have I read one – non-fiction – written with such blatant honesty, grace and humility.

There is so much ‘more’ that Helen Lewis – a Holocaust survivor – could have done with this book – Think Schindler’s List, Helen, touch up your already extraordinary experience with a bit of colour and creative license; think Spielberg, cash in!!

But no. For the lovely, the beautiful, Helen Lewis, it was simply, finally, a time to speak.

And never did ‘less is more’ mean so much.

Forget rancour, forget bitterness, you won’t find that… But you, the reader, tell us how she makes you feel, when she depicts how a German soldier furtively gives over his lunch, to her, a young woman dying on her feet in Auschwitz, so that she might live… No poetry in the world can match that.

A little gem of a book, that the world should be forced to read…
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By dep on February 20, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very compelling book, to me a bit different than many of the other books I have read by survivors of the Holocaust. Helen Lewis and her family were from Trotnov, Czechoslovakia. As a young girl and the only child of her family, she led a comfortable, secure life. Tragically, her father died suddenly in 1934, changing forever the stability and security of her life. At six years old, after attending her first dance class, Helen decided she was going to be a dancer. After she left school, she moved to Prague to study towards that goal. In the spring of 1938, she married a young man named Paul and also received her diploma from her dance school. Now she qualified as a dancer, choreographer, teacher. In 1939, Germany took over Czechoslovakia, changing Helen's world for ever. With a friend's help, in 1940 both Helen and her husband were issued visas for Shanghai. Both Helen and Paul had their parents to look after so they refused the visas. Eventually, Helen, Paul, and their families were shipped to the Terezin Ghetto. Helen also suffered through Auschwitz and Stutthof before escaping to freedom. I thought this was a wonderful book, very positive. Through the entire book the feeling I got was of hope, which Helen never gave up on. A great read.
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