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The Boy: A Holocaust Story [Hardcover]

Dan Porat
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)


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Book Description

October 26, 2010 0809030713 978-0809030712 First Edition

A cobblestone road. A sunny day. A soldier. A gun. A child, arms high in the air. A moment captured on film. But what is the history behind arguably the most recognizable photograph of the Holocaust? In The Boy: A Holocaust Story, the historian Dan Porat unpacks this split second that was immortalized on film and unravels the stories of the individuals—both Jews and Nazis—associated with it.

The Boy presents the stories of three Nazi criminals, ranging in status from SS sergeant to low-ranking SS officer to SS general. It is also the story of two Jewish victims, a teenage girl and a young boy, who encounter these Nazis in Warsaw in the spring of 1943. The book is remarkable in its scope, picking up the lives of these participants in the years preceding World War I and following them to their deaths. One of the Nazis managed to stay at large for twenty-two years. One of the survivors lived long enough to lose a son in the Yom Kippur War. Nearly sixty photographs dispersed throughout help narrate these five lives. And, in keeping with the emotional immediacy of those photographs, Porat has deliberately used a narrative style that, drawing upon extensive research, experience, and oral interviews, places the reader in the middle of unfolding events.


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

It remains one of the most haunting and emotionally devastating photographic images to emerge from World War II. A child, seemingly terrified, raises his hands as SS soldiers raise their weapons while carrying out the “liquidation” of the Warsaw Ghetto. But who was the boy, who was the young girl next to him, and who was the Nazi soldier? Porat is an associate professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he teaches classes on the representation of the Holocaust. His fascination, even obsession, with the image launched him on an odyssey that produced surprising and often disturbing results. Like many epic searches, what is discovered and encountered along the journey proved more revealing than the attainment of the primary goal. In particular, Porat uncovered considerable information on several Nazi war criminals associated with the photo, all of whom were executed after the war. He also succeeds in conveying the almost surrealistic aspects of war and genocide, utilizing both text and a variety of additional photographs. This is rough, sickening material, but the reality of these outrages must be periodically reaffirmed. --Jay Freeman

Review

“A reader goes back, again and again, to the 60 photographs that accompany the text. It is like pinching one’s skin after a dream to see if one has woken in the same world in which one went to sleep. Or first opened The Boy.” —Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
 
“A poignant and riveting investigation.” —Elie Wiesel
 
“A gripping, harrowing Holocaust story, based mostly on facts, but embroidered with probabilities and imaginative suppositions derived from the characters and events involved . . . Mr. Porat has given the world a far greater insight into the hellish universe surrounding the photograph, but, as he suggests, he has not ultimately penetrated its essential mystery. And that mystery may be one reason the photograph will endure.” —Joseph Berger, The New York Times Lens Blog
 
“An often disturbing, sometimes uplifting but always fascinating and incredible piece of history drawn from a single image. This book is destined to become a classic piece of work on the Holocaust.” —Darren Jones, The Herald-Dispatch (Huntington, W.Va.)
 
“A remarkable work and an essential document in the vast library devoted to the Shoah.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“With extraordinary imagination and creativity, Dan Porat pieces together the available evidence and narrates the biography of a photograph, an iconic photograph of a child's helplessness in the face of the Nazi terror. His account complicates and humanizes the story of the photograph by productively and provocatively pushing the limits of the historian's craft. A gripping read!” —David Myers, Professor of Jewish History, UCLA
 
“With originality and alertness to detail, Dan Porat brilliantly tells the story behind one of the most recognized photographs of the Holocaust. Commingling imagination, storytelling, and photographs, Porat crafts an arresting story about Jewish victims and Nazi perpetrators. The Boy is a historical-literary narrative that brings to life a moment frozen in time and broadens our understanding of what common historical writing can describe.” —Alon Confino, Professor, University of Virginia
 
“In this captivating story, Dan Porat allows us to imagine the unimaginable by peering through the eyes of a single boy and those who brutally sealed his fate. A historical detective story of the highest order.”—Sam Wineburg, Margaret Jacks Professor of Education and History, Stanford University
 
 

 


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; First Edition edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809030713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809030712
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,118,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no more." December 6, 2010
Format:Hardcover
On the front cover of Dan Porat's "The Boy" is an iconic photograph. It shows armed SS guards herding men, women, and children from their hiding places in the Warsaw ghetto. One face stands out--that of a small child, a cap on his head, wearing short pants, holding his hands up in the air, with a look of abject despair on his face. Who is this child and what became of him? Porat offers some theories, but we never do find out for sure whether this boy survived, and if he did, what became of him. This innocent youngster is symbolic of the many Polish Jews who wanted nothing more than to live in peace with their families. Tragically, the hate-filled National Socialists, who were determined to "cleanse" Europe, denied the Jews their dignity, freedom, and even their right to exist. "The Boy" focuses on the inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto, their resistance, and ultimate fate.

The photo of the boy originally appeared in the report prepared by SS Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, who boasted about his role in the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. As part of his "grand operation," Stroop ordered his troops to drive out the Jews by setting fire to every building. He included in his report "an album of fifty-two black and white photographs" that depicted the Nazis' brutality and heartlessness towards the starving and desperate men, women, and children. Porat was inspired by the photograph of the boy to "get in touch with people whose lives would otherwise never have intersected with my own." He combed archives in Europe, spoke to the son of an American liberator, and even had a conversation with a Holocaust survivor in New York who thinks that he may be that little boy in the photograph.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Historical Mystery December 23, 2010
Format:Hardcover
I read this book with profound interest due to the photograph that rises a lot of unanswered questions within me during my youth. The book centered on that young Jewish boy looking very scared and forlorn. The photograph itself would have probably won a Pulitzer or something if it wasn't taken by a SS soldier determined to see to their bloody end. The author took an indirect path to determined if that poor boy survived that photo. His approach was to write two mini-biographies of the two main villains of that photo. Jurgen Stroop who was responsible for destroying the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 and Josepf Blosche the SS soldier figured dominantly in that photograph (funny first name for Blosche, considering "Josepf" is more or less Jewish in origin). And the author tries to trace down the survivors from that photograph.

The previous review of this book, which I thought was very good provides a good summary account of this book. The popular myth remains that the boy did survived and became a doctor in New York. Unfortunately for the author and the book, that doctor himself could not positivity say he was that boy. He claims that he was but one of 1.5 million Jewish children who had their arms up toward the skies and he cannot recalled if that boy is him or not. The book thus, was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, if that doctor was that boy or not. Could it be trauma? Maybe a psychological mind block? The book doesn't go into that stage of the investigation. But the book does say that many people are convince that the boy did survived and that boy is that doctor. Of course, other outside sources states that the doctor is not the boy because the boy's records don't match.

Good as the book turned out to be and fantastic reading material, I was puzzled by couple of things.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating January 4, 2011
By ivana
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very interesting approach to history through describing life of people in the picture prior and after it was taken. The history of individuals that really matters.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More of the horrors depicted February 5, 2011
Format:Hardcover
We probably all have shoe boxes of family pictures. Years after the fact, we stumble upon a photo with people or occasion we don't recognize. In a similar fashion, Porat was puzzled by a picture said to have been taken in the Warsaw ghetto. Anyone might wonder about this photo of a boy, perhaps nine years of age, hands raised with Nazi solders close by. Like Porat, questions come up. His goal was to seek the lad's identification. Along his way of investigation, he discovered a number of individuals who played various roles in the war. Some critics may question Porat's writing style, even his imaginative thoughts but the impression comes through of very tough and bad times during the days the Nazis were in charge. Ideas have consequences and the ideas that led Hitler and his gang came from the pit of hell. There is always the need to assess ideas which enter the human community. We surely do not wish to have a repeat of what took place in Germany.

Did Porat find the boy? Perhaps; perhaps not.... The thing to be learned from it all is that we not be captured by poor ideas. The book is tough because of the horrors depicted. It is also an account of heroic people as well as some bad guys who paid the ultimate penalty. Nevertheless, it is a good read and one difficult to put down til the end.

-0-
Another holocaust book worth reading is: Hitler's Ethic by Richard Weikart.
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