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In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer Mass Market Paperback – September 14, 2004


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf; Reissue edition (September 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553494112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553494112
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (221 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When World War II began, Irene Gutowna was a 17-year-old Polish nursing student. Six years later, she writes in this inspiring memoir, "I felt a million years old." In the intervening time she was separated from her family, raped by Russian soldiers, and forced to work in a hotel serving German officers. Sickened by the suffering inflicted on the local Jews, Irene began leaving food under the walls of the ghetto. Soon she was scheming to protect the Jewish workers she supervised at the hotel, and then hiding them in the lavish villa where she served as housekeeper to a German major. When he discovered them in the house, Gutowna became his mistress to protect her friends--later escaping him to join the Polish partisans during the Germans' retreat. The author presents her extraordinary heroism as the inevitable result of small steps taken over time, but her readers will not agree as they consume this thrilling adventure story, which also happens to be a drama of moral choice and courage. Although adults will find Irene's tale moving, it is appropriately published as a young adult book. Her experiences while still in her teens remind adolescents everywhere that their actions count, that the power to make a difference is in their hands. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Even among WWII memoirsAa genre studded with extraordinary storiesAthis autobiography looms large, a work of exceptional substance and style. Opdyke, born in 1922 to a Polish Catholic family, was a 17-year-old nursing student when Germany invaded her country in 1939. She spent a year tending to the ragtag remnants of a Polish military unit, hiding out in the forest with them; was captured and raped by Russians; was forced to work in a Russian military hospital; escaped and lived under a false identity in a village near Kiev; and was recaptured by the Russians. But her most remarkable adventures were still to come. Back in her homeland, she, like so many Poles, was made to serve the German army, and she eventually became a waitress in an officers' dining hall. She made good use of her positionArisking her life, she helped Jews in the ghetto by passing along vital information, smuggling in food and helping them escape to the forest. When she was made the housekeeper of a German major, she used his villa to hide 12 JewsAand, at enormous personal cost, kept them safe throughout the war. In translating Opdyke's experiences to memoir (see Children's Books, June 14), Armstrong and Opdyke demonstrate an almost uncanny power to place readers in the young Irene's shoes. Even as the authors handily distill the complexities of the military and political conditions of wartime Poland, they present Irene as simultaneously strong and vulnerableAa likable flesh-and-blood woman rather than a saint. Telling details, eloquent in their understatement, render Irene's shock at German atrocities and the gradually built foundation of her heroic resistance. Metaphors weave in and out, simultaneously providing a narrative structure and offering insight into Irene's experiences. Readers will be rivetedAand no one can fail to be inspired by Opdyke's courage. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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For her bravery and her book, I commend Irene Gut Opdyke.
JMack
It was like you were there...really well written and most interesting...Definitely a book to recommend to others, very sad but well worth the read...
Moe Douglas
I read this book in one sitting, because I could not bear to put it down.
The Rev. Dr. Daniel J. G. G. Block

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 127 people found the following review helpful By The Rev. Dr. Daniel J. G. G. Block on April 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Engrossing! I read this book in one sitting, because I could not bear to put it down. I'm not easily moved, but Ms. Opdyke's story of life as a young woman in Nazi occupied Poland moved me. I don't easily cry, but I shamelessly cried several times while reading this book.
This is an inspiring tale of courage and resistence in the face of unambiguous evil. It is also the hope-filled story of grace found among the most surprising of individuals: two Soviet physicians consipring to help a young prisoner of war to escape; a Wehrmacht Officer's Club manager blithely feeding slave laborers with luxuries intended for the "master race;" a simple Ukranian priest openly preaching resistence; a Nazi officer sheltering Jews in the basement of his villa!
Above all, this is a story of choices: a story of ordinary people immersed in a living hell, who chose to keep faith with each other, their ideals, their country, and their God.
In a time when too many among us seek to avoid responsibility, here we find the story of a young woman who willingly took responsibility for herself and dozens of others. In a time when politicians conveniently twist "values education" to their own advantage, here we find the story of a woman whose religious and ethical heritage repeatedly demanded the best of her, even under the most dangerous of circumstances. Here we find a heroine on the order of Oscar Schindler or Raul Wallenburg. This life-affirming tale demonstrates that even under the most extreme circumstances, one righteous person can still change the world for the better. For that reason alone, this book is worth reading.
If you have been wounded too often, and have become just a little too cynical about the world, read this book.
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Stefanie Pawelczyk on May 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am so grateful for having read this book. It was deeply moving. I am a seventeen year old girl, as Irene was when the war began, and I cannot even imagine having to experience all of things she did....being raped, a mistress, etc. I admire this woman so much, her courage and determination are one in a billion. It's incomprehensible to know what she went through during those dreadful years, yet through it all her faith is what helped her to survive. I will never forget this book for as long as live...I've read so many books, and I have to admit that I think this one has truly moved me the most. I've read many Holocaust stories as well, but this had a profound effect on me. Please read this book--you'll gain not only a better insight of World War II and the Holocaust, but also how to appreciate life more and realize how much you take for granted.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 20, 1999
Format: Audio Cassette
This short book is one of the more remarkable books on the Holocaust I have ever read. It details the life of one seemingly ordinary nursing student, thrown into adversity, who demonstrates extraordinary courage and heroism and humanity responding to the needs of a group of Jewish prisoners in her care. Against extraordinary odds, she manages to harbor the group in the basement of a house occupied by a Wehrmacht officer for whom she serves as housekeeper. The book is an easy read, written in a warm and direct style, very personal, and at the same time very intense. Reading this book helps answer some of the eternal questions about the survival of humanity in Nazi-occupied Europe, and is a must-read for students of the subject.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By JMack VINE VOICE on August 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
This quote begins Irene Gut Opdyke's tale of heroism and courage. The quote comes from the local minister after he learned the story of the family dog saving a young Irene from falling into the river. The priest's proclamation could not have come more true.

As a young adult in Poland, Irene's childhood ended with the Nazi invasion. Relocated from her family for her nursing skill, Irene was well traveled by the war's end. In the most unlikley of circumstances, Irene found herself as the housekeeper of a German officer. Just before this promotion, she had begun illegally sending food to the Jewish ghetto. So while working in the German officer's house, she took a bolder step. She hid several Jews in the cellar of the house. If she was caught, her execution would have been certain. She sacrificed dignity and humiliation in order to preserve the lives of those she protected. In a twist of fate, it was many of the same Jews that she helped survive the war that helped her to settle after the war.

It is often forgotten that many Germans and Europeans did not support the Nazis. With this in mind, many Christians were hiding Jews and helping them to survive until the fall of the Nazi regime. Because my own grandmother kept several Jews on her farm during the war in Poland, this book struck a personal chord in me. This is a side of the Holocaust and World War II that is not often told. For her bravery and her book, I commend Irene Gut Opdyke. Her story is so good, it is almost beyond belief.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Anyechka on July 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Although Poland was a fiercely anti-Semitic country, the nation which lost the highest percentage of its prewar Jewish population, and the nation where at least half of the murdered were from, ironically the largest number of people recognised by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations also came from Poland. Irena Gutowna (Irene Gut) is one of those people. The foundations for her heroic actions were laid in her childhood, when she and her four younger sisters would often rescue injured or abandoned animals and tend them back to life and health, as well as frequently showing kindness to less fortunate people as well. She was very angry and resentful that her beloved homeland of Poland had to suffer so much under the hands of both the Nazis and the Soviets, and knew she had to do all she could to fight both forces. At both the beginning and the end of the war, she fought with the Polish partisans in the woods; both times her partisan activities were brought to a grinding halt when she was captured and arrested by the Soviets, but both times she also managed to escape. After her first escape, she was found by other Russians and taken in her unconscious bruised and battered state to a nearby hospital in what is now the Ukraine, and after her recovery she was put to work as a nurse, having been a student nurse before the war. After escaping there when the new head doctor tried to attack her, she worked in a small Soviet village for a year, posing as the cousin of a female doctor and being her assistant, before she was able to go back home to Poland, eventually ending up in Ternopol, the city she had been in before she'd escaped the hospital where she was also a prisoner.Read more ›
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