From Publishers Weekly
When the last of his 10 children was born in 1921, Shimshon Eizik Ovitz had the distinction of having fathered the largest dwarf family in the world. Twenty-four years later, his seven dwarf children, two of their normal-sized siblings and a handful of their spouses and cousins set a more tragic record as one of only two extended families to survive Auschwitz intact. The same physical characteristics that frequently rendered them helpless made them endlessly appealing to the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele, who tormented them in the name of genetic research. The Ovitz family history is fascinating, as is the dwarf lore that Israeli journalists Koren and Negev have unearthed, but the real drama—aside from the horror of the Holocaust—is in the relationships the Ovitzes formed with Mengele as well as with one another, their spouses, extended family and with the Slomowitzes, fellow townspeople who pretended to be relatives so that they, too, would be spared. Much of the family history comes from the last surviving Ovitz daughter, Perla, who died in 2001, and her nephew, Shimshon, who was a toddler in Auschwitz. Perla is a compelling blend of pride and misery, her nephew a sorrowful adult whose difficult childhood was followed by a troubled adolescence. Their stories, and those of their family, are unique and unforgettable. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW.
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The Ovitz family--seven dwarfs and three normal-statured siblings--traveled through Transylvania and neighboring lands singing songs for enthusiastic audiences in the 1930s and early 1940s. Then in 1944, they were shipped with thousands of other Jews to Auschwitz, where the infamous Dr. Mengele took an interest in them. Saved from immediate murder by Mengele, they were treated far better than the average resident of Auschwitz. Although forced to suffer through painful and humiliating medical tests, they kept their own clothes and were better fed than others at the camp. They survived Mengele's experiments, eventually moving to Israel and going on a successful reunion tour before retiring to run a cinema together. Employing information culled from interviews with friends and the last surviving Ovitz sister, Koren and Negev explore with considerable depth the Ovitzes' complicated relationships with their size; one another; and their awful savior, Mengele. The sometimes melodramatic writing detracts a bit from the inherently powerful story, but this is a quirky, illuminating addition to Holocaust history. John Green
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