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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read!
Israeli prize winner Amir Gutfreund debuts with an astonishing chronicle of two young children's abilities and inabilities to understand what happened "over there" in Our Holocaust.

The author takes the stage as a fictional character along with Effi, the only other child on Katznelson Street in Kiryat Haim. As members of the second-and-a-half generation to the...
Published on June 13, 2006 by Armchair Interviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to read.
This book is about the impact of the code of silence of the Holocaust survivors on their children. Particularly the fear of everything and mistrust of everyone, without any explanation. When children aren't given an explanation, they imagine something, usually 100 time worse than reality. A good book, but hard to read. It doesn't seem to go anywhere or have any plan.
Published 13 months ago by Amelia A. Rowen


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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, June 13, 2006
By 
This review is from: Our Holocaust (Hardcover)
Israeli prize winner Amir Gutfreund debuts with an astonishing chronicle of two young children's abilities and inabilities to understand what happened "over there" in Our Holocaust.

The author takes the stage as a fictional character along with Effi, the only other child on Katznelson Street in Kiryat Haim. As members of the second-and-a-half generation to the Shoah (the Holocaust), they try to fit the pieces of the puzzle together--from the bits and pieces they are given--because they are not "Old Enough" to comprehend.

Amir is the more questioning of two, begging for stories and information. Fifty years may have passed but the Shoah's survivors are still haunted. As the children age and become "Old Enough" to learn the truth, Amir becomes obsessed with learning more. He interviews the family--everyone who survived is now a relative, not so much as by blood as shared experiences--and collects their stories.

One of the more unusual characters is Attorney Perl, not for what he remembers or what he experienced in the camps. He, too, keeps records. Not about the atrocities, but about what happened to those who committed them. What happened to the Nazis after liberation? Ask Attorney Perl. Behind the wall of his hardware store is a wall of little drawers. Amir at first believes they contain the store's inventory, but when he's finally "Old Enough," he learns that the drawers are crammed with index cards full of notations, sentences, releases, and deaths of Nazi party members.

Our Holocaust takes readers on two voyages. One is through the minds of the survivors and their children, and another is through the camps. It takes readers through the ghettos where the Nazis perform the "Aktions" and the "Selektions" of who stays, goes, and who dies on the spot.

Our Holocaust is not an easy read. It's frightening. It's horrific. It puts faces on the people in the documentaries that have aired over the years.

Armchair Interviews says: While Our Holocaust is not an easy read, it's a must-read to even begin to understand exactly what happened "over there."
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A breathless read, but..., April 27, 2008
This review is from: Our Holocaust (Hardcover)
Gutfreund breaks a taboo, writing a novel about the Holocaust, one that is couched in the accoutrements of veracity, such as a first person narrator bearing the same name as the author. The entire read, one toys with the question of what is real and what is made up. As it turns out - most is made up. Still, a book very hard to put down.

In a move reminding me of Vikram Seth in Two Lives, Gutfreund feels a need to distance himself from those nationalists and right-wingers who gather political points from the near annihilation of the Jewish people. Many would maintain that the nations of the world allowed the establishment of Israel because of their bad conscience regarding the Holocaust. So, if Seth spends a page or two decrying Bush and Israel and celebrating eco-politics, Gutfreund makes the more daring move to impugn all the Israelis (besides himself of course, a distinction he makes very clear, even fantasizing having his head split open in the town square for his enlightened beliefs) as being able to commit the Holocaust upon Israel's "minorities" (aka Palestinians). He views himself and those surrounding him as on some eternal brink, in an everlasting 1939, on the eve of a new Holocaust.

I question the morality of such a complete smudging of boundaries between victim and criminal (even if this conclusion is resurrected later on in the book in order to maintain that both victims and perpetrators were ordinary folk - part of a tired academic argument regarding whether Germany's path to genocide was a "Sonderweg" or "special way" or whether it was something more common). And he keeps struggling with his own conclusion throughout the book, as though his very innards rebel against believing the same. Thought-provoking, and I hope very wrong. In the words of Orwell: "There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them."
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best "Second-and-a-half" Generation Book Ever, March 27, 2012
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This review is from: Our Holocaust (Paperback)
If Elie Wiesel's "Night," is fiction, then "Our Holocaust," by Amir Gutfreund fits into the same category. I have waited a long time for a book as well-written as this one, on a subject that is never, ever funny. All one can hope for as a reader is to get an unsentimentalized picture that makes one consider a fuller perspective on the subject. Gutfreund does this, and more.

Gutfreund re-creates an entire neighborhood in Israel from his childhood, as it was lived among Holocaust survivors who desired to keep their past from damaging the "2nd and a half" generation. Unexpected comedy is created by this fantastic author, as he writes of the devious, childish tricks used by Amir and Effie in the book to get around their Grandpa Yosef's stern edict that nobody talks about the past to these curious children. The neighbors are charming, engrossing in their dysfunction, and captivate the reader immediately.

As the boy grows up, he continues to search for complete stories from these broken souls. He himself becomes damaged by some of the knowledge he learns, and ends up looking for ways to make peace with the complexity of the pains he uncovers. Some of the other reviewers are better equipped than I to address the potential political implications of the fictional protagonist's musings. I was just glad to finally read something that was balanced and beautiful in the depiction of the familial love for these wrecks and ruins of people as they steer--unwitttingly sometimes--towards each person's individual end or "documentation" of what had happened to them, what was lost in the past.

The wry, hard-boiled comments by his closest childhood friend, Effi, had me grinning, and I highlighted whole paragraphs of the book which contains multiple perfect vignettes of the "stories" of survivors he documents.

The book reminded me of this quote from war photographer Eugene Smith (he took the famous photos in the Vietnam war, showing the self-immolation of the monk, the fleeing, naked, napalmed girl, and most horrifying, the point-blank execution of a man on his knees. His images are credited with profoundly influencing people's attitudes towards the war.).

W. Eugene Smith stated, "I am constantly torn between the attitude of the conscientious journalist---who is a recorder of, an interpreter of, facts---and of the creative artist who often is necessarily at poetic odds with the literary facts. " (quoted from "Art and Artist" on p. 207 by Eduardo Torroja, Rico, Frankenstein Lebrun, Alfred, Mundt Earnest).

Gutfreund walks this tightrope between fiction and memoir. The book is no less interesting for that fact. I am glad I bought it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "only saints were gassed?", November 12, 2012
This review is from: Our Holocaust (Kindle Edition)
Amir lives in Israel amid a "compressed family " of grandparents, aunts, and uncles. He and Effi are the second and a half generation of concentration camp survivors. At the start of the book,, he and Effi strive endlessly to find the stories of their families in the war. They know the rules: nothing is wasted, food is never thrown away, and some things are only to be told to them "when they are old enough". They have hints. They know one woman can never have children, people's bodies are laid waste forever, one uncle is his own brother. And through the village, Hirsch wanders muttering "only saints were gassed?"
Amir's efforts continue through his life. He and the Attorney" document those Nazis and their escape from justice. He interviews the family now that he is old enough. And he learns there is not so much to separate that age from our own.
In the end, he finds "ordinary people were killed by ordinary people". There were beasts of the Nazis, there were saints of the Jews, but exceptions existed of both. Not only saints were gassed.
What this means to us is that we never forget. This book bears witnes. As a young child, we had relatives with tattoos of numbers from the camps on their arms. And I too wanted to know what happened and what would keep me safe now. This is a book I highly recommend in its accurate portrayal of the ghosts who still live and could live again.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Israeli books written in the past years, March 30, 2006
This review is from: Our Holocaust (Hardcover)
Once you start reading it, you find yourself enchanted. Well written and not at all horrific. The subject is a difficult one, but the author makes you smile, laugh, cry, and feel human for better or worst. Amir G is one of the most promising authors in Israel! A must read book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning, eye-opening read!, August 18, 2013
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This review is from: Our Holocaust (Kindle Edition)
I've read two other books since finishing Our Holocaust. They've completely gone out of my mind. Our Holocaust remains. It may take another read to totally digest all the complexities of this work.
This was written from the point of view of second generation Holocaust survivors delving into the stories of their friends, relatives and neighbors in modern day Israel.
While the horrors of the Holocaust have been widely reported, the personal nature of these people, telling their stories to the narrator makes them incredibly real. The manner in which he is affected by their sufferings and the way their experiences shaped their lives all combined to touch this reader deeply.
I highly recommend this book. Expect it to raise questions in your mind about the nature of humanity's ability to harm and to heal. In any case, you will not be unmoved.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to read., June 23, 2013
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This review is from: Our Holocaust (Kindle Edition)
This book is about the impact of the code of silence of the Holocaust survivors on their children. Particularly the fear of everything and mistrust of everyone, without any explanation. When children aren't given an explanation, they imagine something, usually 100 time worse than reality. A good book, but hard to read. It doesn't seem to go anywhere or have any plan.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very compelling story - A must read, November 12, 2012
This review is from: Our Holocaust (Paperback)
I highly recommend that you read this novel ... "Our Holocaust" by Israeli author Amir Gutfreund. The main characters are two second generation children of holocaust survivors living on a quiet suburban street in Israel. Having lost much of their real families to the Holocaust the children and their parents assemble substitute grandparents, uncles, etc from the Holocaust survivors in living in the neighborhood.

Drawn to learn more about the lives of these pseudo relatives and trying to understand their sometime unusual behaviors - the children over time learn the individual stories of these "grandparents, uncles, aunts" - their lives before the SHOAH (Holocaust), how they individually survived the death camps (sometimes by sheer happenstance) and how the events shaped them forever.

This first time Israeli author weaves into the tale many historical facts about this dark period including the stark reality that many of the perpetrators of the holocaust from planners of the final Jewish Solution, camp commandants, sadistic guards and others tasked to cleanse Europe of Jews were either not held accountable and lived out their lives amongst ordinary Germans or when tried and sentenced served only a very small portion of their punishment.

Using humor, sometimes black .... the author, Amir Gutfreund compels the reader to ponder whether the world is just a blink away from another SHOAH. After all as he points out many Germans were not cruel in carrying out their duties as guards, trainmen, industrialist utilizing slave labor - yet they still managed to contribute to the effort to eliminate 5 million ethnic minorities and 6 million Jews ..... returning themselves to life as normal after the war.

It is not a somber retelling of death camp stories but the story cannot be fully told without the telling of the suffering of the characters and how it shaped them. Because the author introduces the reader early to these survivors and how they manged their lives post SHOAH - their death camp stories are not the end but in many instances the beginning of their journey of survival and return to a normalcy unique to survivors of tragedy whether it be the death camps or a tsunami or super storm.

A must read. The translation is artfully done without any loss of the author's intended story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Devastatingly sad, September 29, 2012
This review is from: Our Holocaust (Kindle Edition)
Certainly this book is written very well. The translation is amazing. The story is intriguing. But it brings out the horrors of the holocaust in a way that I found too much to absorb. He explores the most bestial -- even worse than bestial -- human tendencies in a way that no other book can approach. He also links that horror to the horror all people are capable of if they descend to their lowest level.
That said, if you want to read in a fictionalized format something that presents detail after detail of the behavior of Nazi war criminals, this could be for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you Amir Gutfreund, September 11, 2008
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This review is from: Our Holocaust (Hardcover)
An absolute must-read. ". . . there isn't as much black and white in the world as we would like." p. 371. This book touched me deeply and I am grateful to Amir Gutfreund for taking the time to do this. An important work.
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Our Holocaust
Our Holocaust by Amir Gutfreund
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