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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Seven Dwarfs
The story of the Ovitz family's devotion to one other and to their religion is by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking. By now, many of us have read books, seen movies, and heard stories about extraordinary survival won through that extraordinary horror, the Holocaust. This book stands with the best of those stories because of its uniqueness -- seven of the 10 Ovitzes...
Published on September 22, 2004 by beckyjean

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Historical
It is not what I expected. I thought it would be a better story, and I was not compelled to re-read it.
Published 20 months ago by Karen E. Marcos


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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Seven Dwarfs, September 22, 2004
The story of the Ovitz family's devotion to one other and to their religion is by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking. By now, many of us have read books, seen movies, and heard stories about extraordinary survival won through that extraordinary horror, the Holocaust. This book stands with the best of those stories because of its uniqueness -- seven of the 10 Ovitzes were dwarfs, and therefore the entire family became the special "pets" of the dreaded Dr. Mengele.

The writing is hardly slick or seamless, but it gets the job done in a more than satisfactory manner. The text seems to speak English with an accent, and while that can be a tad distracting at times, it confers that much more veracity upon the story of the Ovitzes.

The resourcefulness, dedication, and intelligence of the Ovitz dwarfs enables the reader to see them as much more than medical curiosities. Not only are they real people, they're very special people. Frankly, people of this caliber would be worth writing a book about even if they were of normal stature. Dwarfism aside, the story of the Ovitzes is that of a loving, close-knit, traditional family of a type that seems sadly alien to many of us today.

The family's Jewish faith remains strong even in the face of growing persecution. When it is decreed that Jewish performers may perform only for Jewish audiences, the Ovitzes skillfully contrive to obtain identification papers that do not identify them as Jews, yet they remain observant by conveniently falling ill on every sabbath, so they do not have to perform. Later, when they are held in the concentration camp, they manage to say prayers and fashion makeshift candles in secret observance of holidays.

The suffering the Ovitzes endured at the hands of Mengele is not related in excruciating detail, but what information we are given is excruciating enough. This book is generally more vague, more poetic about the concentration-camp atrocities than other books, but it is no less horrifying.

Horrifying, too, are some of the details of the Ovitzes' lives after the war. They remain devoted to one another, and continue to stick together, but now they are also bonded by what haunts them. Their nephew -- who was only a baby in the camp and learned to call Mengele "Daddy" so that he might be spared from torture -- recalls being awakened frequently by his aunts and uncles screaming in their sleep.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book are the conflicting accounts of the dwarfs' activities in the concentration camp. Several witnesses claim to have seen the Ovitzes performing in the camp, whereas the Ovitzes always firmly maintained that they did not perform -- and indeed, would not have done such a thing. Other witnesses claim to have seen several of the dwarves kowtowing to Mengele and to have heard them praising him to the other prisoners. The Ovitzes deny this as well.

The authors of the book do not attempt to clear up these discrepancies; they simply present both sides, and acknowledge that perhaps certain people's memories are clouded or inaccurate. I admired this tactic.

This remarkable family made their way in a world that gave them very little more than sharp minds, winning personalities, each other, and their strong faith. Though they did gain wealth and widespread renown before and after the war, during the very darkest years of their lives, the barest essentials -- wits and wit, family and faith -- turned out to be riches in themselves.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting family, May 12, 2006
This review is from: In Our Hearts We Were Giants: The Remarkable Story of the Lilliput Troupe: A Dwarf Family's Survival of the Holocaust (Paperback)
The family photo on the cover is a classic, and I first saw it as a child in a Time-Life series book. The condition has since been diagnosed as pseudoachondroplasia, a genetic disorder of the cartilage.

Even if it weren't for the religious persecution and horrendous experiments performed on them by Dr. Mengele, this would have been a fascinating story about a challenged family who rose above their obstacles, without being exploited, to lead fulfilling lives. All appeared to be emotionally well-adjusted and totally lacking in self-pity.

People who are interested in the Holocaust and/or dwarfism should read this book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a poignant and uplifting story of survival, July 6, 2004
As an avid reader of many Holocaust stories, I was very moved by the remarkable, true story written by Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev, Israeli authors who interviewed the last surviving dwarf of the Lilliput Troupe. This Orthodox family which consisted of ten children, seven of whom were dwarfs, all survived the horrors of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp and the experiments by Joseph Mengele. Unlike other stories of Holocaust survivors which describe horrific conditions of death, starvation, and torture, this story is unique in that the reader can identify with the emotions and vicissitudes of the dwarfs and sympathize with their situation. It is a poignant and uplifting story of survival and compassion for the little people of the world who have made an important contribution to world history, unique in the Orthodox world.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable perspective on the nightmare of the Holocaust, February 8, 2006
This review is from: In Our Hearts We Were Giants: The Remarkable Story of the Lilliput Troupe: A Dwarf Family's Survival of the Holocaust (Paperback)
Penned by a pair of Israeli journalists, In Our Hearts We Were Giants is the never-before-told true story of the Ovitz family, seven of them dwarfs, who experienced the horrors of the Holocaust - yet in an odd twist of fate, their dwarfism actually helped them to survive. Serving as popular entertainers until the Nazis deported them to Auschwitz in May 1944, the Ovitz family - widely known as the Lilliput Troupe - were separated from other Jewish victims. The notorious Dr. Josef Mengele, his diabolic "research" on twins and other genetically unique individuals already underway, took a special interest in the Ovitzes. Even as he arranged for vile experiments to be performed upon the Ovitzes, he developed a bizarre fondness for them and their will to survive. Pieced together from interviews with the last surviving Ovitz sibling and her relatives, medical documentation, archival lists, and original Auschwitz records, In Our Hearts We Were Giants is an unforgettable perspective on the nightmare of the Holocaust.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "big" book about "small"people, August 29, 2004
By 
This is a most unusual book. Many books have been printed about the Holocaust, dissecting it from every conceivable aspect. Here we have a fascinating account of how a family of Jewish dwarfs from Marmorash (Transylvania) in Rumania survived the Holocaust. The infamous "doctor" Mengele was interested in studying genetics , more accurately he was interested in his own version of this science.The family of Jewish dwarfs and some extended family members offered him an unusual opportunity for this study and Mengele seized this and thus allowed the Jewish dwarfs to survive Auschwitz and remain alive while he and his staff preformed their so-called research on them.In fact many of these extended family members were not really related to the dwarf family , but created a fiction in an attempt at survival.

In fact this allowed these little Jews to survive and eventually move to Israel.Not only did they survive but Mengele and his cohorts treated them fairly well in comparison to the death camp conditions prevailing in Auschwitz.

Besides being a fascinating Holocaust story, it is also a moving human interest story dealing with Jewish life in Northern Rumania and the Jewish attitude towards the preforming arts in pre War Rumania and Hungary . Given that this family was Orthodox , their role in theatre and was especially difficult for them to navigate. The book also has some interesting information about "Badchanus" an art that is only now being revived in the Chasidic community in the US, Israel and Belgium.

Of course the book offers an account of life as a dwarf and , how these people live meaningful lives on both a day to day basis and in the long run in terms of livelyhood and marriage. The authors have presented a finely crafted book , that is both a dramatic account of one family's struggle to survive in the darkest of times and the same familys joy of life in dealing with a challenged reality.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gem......., March 1, 2007
By 
Patricia S. Dumas (Fair Haven, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Our Hearts We Were Giants: The Remarkable Story of the Lilliput Troupe: A Dwarf Family's Survival of the Holocaust (Paperback)
Just when I thought I knew all the big stories from the Holocaust, I come upon this... and I had never heard of this family.

My father's family was from this same region in Romania, and I wish my granpa and grandma were alive to ask them questions...who knows? They might have even seen this family perform! Ah, the things we never asked our parents and grandparents when they were alive cause we were so busy in our young lives!

Wonderfully told story about family togetherness...Tender, raw, and real. One can even try to understand why there was a sort of "affection" between the family and their captors--as unbelievable as it seems.

Read this one.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph of the will, July 21, 2004
By 
This book should truly be written on the surface of diamond, to be read until the ending of mankind. Like Martin Gilbert's The Holocaust, In Our Hearts We Were Giants is an immaculately researched history, a testament to human courage in the face of unimaginable horror. The hitherto un-recorded story of the Ovitz family from Romania, seven of them of restricted growth, who performed as The Lilliput Troupe, details their arrest and transportation to Auschwitz where they were selected by Josef Mengele for his pseudo-scientific research into dwarfism. The authors, in diligently extracting minute details of his inhumanity (the Devil is in the detail!), bring this monster - and his peers and successors - to judgement.

One of the most powerful sequences occurs towards the end, when the authors make the journey that the Ovitz family would have endured from north west Romania to Auschwitz. There, in this now seemingly 'commercialised' death camp, they find a single button in the dust. Throughout the book Koren and Negev continually astonish with fragments that impact the reality of the Final Solution. Like many pages in this shocking book it's almost impossible to read through tears, The moral of every page is a test of one's own morality and courage.

The horror of what happened becomes tangible when the focus is upon individuals - somehow the massacre of millions is impossible to comprehend. If their sacrifice has any value then it is contained in books like this, as the same genocidal forces are still at work around the world. It is as profound a memorial as that at Yad Vashem, and at the end all one can say is Kaddish.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling tale of resilience and a unique Holocaust story, February 6, 2010
This review is from: In Our Hearts We Were Giants: The Remarkable Story of the Lilliput Troupe: A Dwarf Family's Survival of the Holocaust (Paperback)
I have read hundreds of Holocaust accounts in the past two decades, and each story is always unique despite the shared grief and pain. "In Our Hearts We Were Giants" is a compelling and unique Holocaust account as it is a chronicle of the lives of the Ovitz family which hail from Rozavlea, Transylvania from 1868 through the Holocaust and after - and what makes this unique is the fact that the family was afflicted with dwarfism (excluding a few family members), and this very condition saved them when the family arrived in Auschwitz in May, 1944. Most of the Jews in that transport were sent on to their deaths in the gas chambers - but the Ovitzes were spared because their sheer numbers and their dwarfism made them stand out amongst the crowds. The Nazi guards realized that this family would interest Dr. Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who with a flick of his finger sent Jews to either their deaths or to life (albeit a harrowing one spent in arguably the worst concentration/extermination camp in WW II).

Dr. Mengele does become interested in the dwarves and keeps them for his personal quasi-medical experiments. In turn, the dwarves themselves soon realize that Mengele is the one person standing between them and death - and do all they can to survive. Though they are generally treated better than the other Auschwitz inmates (better food, clothing, kept together for the most part, etc.), they are also subjected to horrific and senseless medical experiments - tests, invasive procedures, being gawked at by strangers (in the nude) etc. The Ovitzes did manage to survive, and in the process also saved those not related to them (such as their family coachman Shimon Slomowitz, his wife and children) and some relatives who were not afflicted with dwarfism.

The book is also interesting in that it not only tells the story of the Ovitzes, but also the perceptions of those inmates who were critical of the Ovitzes, feeling that they were on too good terms with Mengele. However, it is apparent to the reader that the Ovitzes' survival was entirely dependent on Mengele's whims, which makes their dependency and obsequious behavior towards him justifiable. But despite surviving Auschwitz, the legacy of their camp experience continues to haunt them as is testified to by their nephew Shimshon Ovitz, who was only an infant when the family came to Auschwitz. He tells of not being able to sleep at night because of the tormented screams of his aunts and uncles. But despite all these travails, their resilience of spirit is to be admired as they do go on to make a new life for themselves after the war, making their way to Israel where they resume their careers in the entertainment line. This is a story of resilience and inner courage, and of survival in the most harrowing of circumstances. A must-read in the annals of Holocaust literature.Also recommended Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz, andChildren of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, Not A Light Read, October 29, 2013
By 
Blues Babe (Walla Walla, WA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Our Hearts We Were Giants: The Remarkable Story of the Lilliput Troupe: A Dwarf Family's Survival of the Holocaust (Paperback)
This is an interesting but very poignant and at times, distressing tale. The book was well-researched and written and the photos were a great enhancement to the story but be warned; this is not a book to read for entertainment. However, for a student of history and human nature it is very worthwhile. This was a book that I had to walk away from on occasion because I felt sorrow and anger on behalf of the characters. Still, I was involved in the narrative and it never occurred to me to abandon the story. In the end I finished with admiration for the resilience and resourcefulness of the Ovitzs and appreciation of the enduring human and family values that led to their amazing survival during their imprisonment as well as throughout their lives. This story is a glimpse into a widespectrum of individuals and societies of noble, ignoble, and horrendously evil character.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small People with a Very large story., December 19, 2009
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This is one of the most interesting Holocaust stories that I have read. Here is a family of midgets, Jewish, who are able to survive the Holocaust by allowing themselves to be experimented on and also entertaining the SS troops and officers at the same time. These wonderful people were actually able to help others by bringing them in as members of their family or as members of their troupe. This is a very easy read and very hard to put down. I highly recommend it as an astonishing story of hope and survival and love.
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In Our Hearts We Were Giants: The Remarkable Story of the Lilliput Troupe: A Dwarf Family's Survival of the Holocaust
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