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Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood

3.3 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805210897
ISBN-10: 080521089X
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Binjamin Wilkomirski (the name the author believes to be his, though he will never know for sure) was held in a Nazi concentration camp in Poland as a young child. Fragments contains the powerful remnants of his memory, the piercing shards of a child's recollections of unadulterated terror and the confusing horror of the camps. The sheer power of the author's story would be sufficient to explain the force of his words; his steady confidence in his childlike voice and memory adds even greater authority to this memoir. Capable of standing up against Elie Wiesel's harrowing masterpiece Night, Fragments evokes an awesome power through the memory of a child and the words of a courageously honest man who has refused to substitute "understanding" for the inexplicable events he experienced. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Majdanek extermination camp outside Lublin, Poland, was equally as murderous as Auschwitz, and nearly as large. It is curious that it is much less well known, but that is where the author spent about four years of his childhood, as an orphan, entering the camp around age three. His survival is a testament to his resilience. In sparest prose, the author describes such daily occurrences as starving babies who devour the ends of their own fingers. There are numerous Holocaust memoirs on the market, but this one is qualitatively different, for it attempts to introduce us to the worst of the Nazi horror through the mind of a child. Wilkomirski, today a musician living in Switzerland, worked with a psychiatrist to piece together these "fragments" of the story of his childhood?recollections that, he claims, he has dredged up through the psychiatric process. Though presented as fact, this blackest night of the soul reads like fine literature.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken (September 23, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080521089X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805210897
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There is now ample evidence that the story told in this book is false: the "60 minutes" special, the "New Yorker" article, the "Granta" investigation, and also a report by an historian hired by the author's literary agent. Therefore it is not respectful of authentic personal recounts of the Holocaust. It is an act of supreme bad taste. The fact that I believed in the story so completely makes me all the more upset. Yet, this book is a very interesting case of an individual substituting his memory with someone else's, probably in good faith. The book itself is not badly written at all, and it is still hard to believe for me that someone with little culture an historical knowledge could recreate facts in a way that has fooled many historians.
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Format: Paperback
The greatest lesson I've learned from Holocaust survivors, and I've known many, is we all construct our lives. Some told stories of great horror (watching as family members were killed), others recounted tales of great beauty (I once met a couple who are now married who fell in love at Auschwitz, as odd as that sounds), still others spoke of crushing monotony, guilt that they were surviving as workers while others were sent to their deaths, etc. All had made some peace with what had happened (to varying degrees) and exuded a level of humility which at first, to me, seemed baffling. But over time I came to understand that they were ordinary people who were caught up in extraordinary events. Every story was different but no one pretended to be something they were not.
This is a bad book, even as fiction. It's the Oprah version of the Holocaust, crafted to tug at the heart strings, the author attempts to present an archetypal experience when really there is no such thing. That he passed it off as the story of his life is shameful. One can have sympathy for a troubled soul (demons come in many forms) but that's it. Fictional works about the Holocaust are fine but those who loved this book, fraud revealed, should consider why they're being taken in. It's a pretty fable, that's all. Life can be beautiful (to mention another work which used a similar formula). When a poseur claims that horrific events make people more sensitive, noble, when they buy into this notion of the victim as hero, which is what the author of this book is selling, such a person is saying something I've never a genuine survivor say. Sad indeed.
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By A Customer on October 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
FYI " subsequent research indicated Wilkomirski was really a Swiss citizen named Bruno Doessekker who cannot claim Jewish identity. In 1999, the German publisher Suhrkamp Verlag withdrew the hardcover version of ``Fragments'' from bookstores. Last summer, the Culture Administration in Zurich issued a statement saying that recent research had made clear that ``Fragments'' was a ``freely invented autobiography.''
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By A Customer on August 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The New Yorker article, as well as one in Granta Magazine, are quite convincing that Wilkomirski's memoir cannot be discussed as an accurate autobiographical account. The first time I read this powerful narrative, I was struck by how "truthfully" he represents emotional fragmentation resulting from trauma in language. As a reader, however, I confess I feel betrayed by the false claims of authenticity--and wonder at the psychological disruption which could have engineered this sort of falsity--which BW seems to believe. Assuming that the memoir is indeed fiction, I'm left to sort out what the text becomes. Total fraud? How is one then determining truth and memory? Those who actually died and those who survived the camps are betrayed, it seems to me, by Wilkomirski adopting the Shoah as metaphor. How does this change if we view FRAGMENTS as fiction? Wilkomirski clings to his narrative as true (mostly)-- it has, at any rate, become true for him. Is it productive to move from a discussion of verifiable authenticity (according to documents and such) into one which would examine what we mean when we say "truth"--??--especially in language? Outrage @ this false posture does indeed seem appropriate--but I'm struck by how, even after reading the "truth" about Wilkomirski--there are so many questions remaining.
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Format: Hardcover
It is in Fragments now, a total hoax.
A Holocaust survivor memoir that has received prestigious literary awards and lavish praise has been exposed as a hoax.
In Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood, Binjamin Wilkomirski describes his ordeal as an infant in the Jewish ghetto of Riga (Latvia), where his earliest memory is of seeing his father being killed. Wilkomirski also tells how he survived the terrible rigors of wartime internment, at the age of three or four, in the German-run concentration camps of Majdanek and Auschwitz.
First published in German in 1995, Fragments has been translated into twelve languages. In Switzerland, the country where Wilkomirski lives, the book has been a major best-seller. Two documentary films and numerous personal appearances by the author in schools throughout the country have helped promote the memoir.
The American edition was published by Schocken, an imprint of Random House, which heavily promoted the book with teachers' study guides and other supplementary materials.
Jewish groups and major American newspapers have warmly praised Fragments. The New York Times called it "stunning," and the Los Angeles Times lauded it as a "classic first-hand account of the Holocaust." It received the 1996 National Jewish Book Award for Autobiography and Memoir, while in Britain it was awarded the Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize, and in France the Prix Memoire de la Shoah.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC -- a federal government agency -- was so impressed that it sent Wilkomirski on a six-city United States fund-raising tour last fall.
This past summer, though, compelling evidence came to light exposing Wilkomirski's memoir as an literary hoax.
Read more ›
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