56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
I was born not long after the end of World War II. Some of my earliest memories are of hiding under the table out on my Grandma's porch listening to my Dad and all of my uncles talk about their experiences during the war. World War II, and in particular the Holocaust, has always held a fascination (for want of a better word) for me. I've read countless books on the subject, watched dozens, perhaps hundreds, of hours of movies and documentaries, and even had a chance to see & hear about some of what happened first hand both here at home and living in Germany.
In general, I do not approve of fiction when it comes to the Holocaust. Let me tell you why. This is an event that must never be forgotten, an event that some (all too many) deny ever happened, even with many survivors and combatants on both sides still alive. So, when I hear about something like "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas", first presented as a real event, then later declared to be a complete fiction by the authors themselves, I cringe. It will not be long before all of the direct witnesses have passed. Even my generation, the ones who heard the stories first hand, who saw the tattoos, who have walked the remnants of the battlegrounds, are getting on up there. Before too long, there will be nothing to witness except words written in a book. Those words must be truth, not fantasy. Otherwise, in 25 or 30 or 40 years people can simply point to a stack of made up books and say "see - all fiction - never happened."
There are some cases, though, where a story is important to tell even if it must be told through the medium of fiction because there are no longer living witnesses - or perhaps never were. One of those stories is the roundup,subsequent abandonment and final shipment to Auschwitz of more than 4,000 children in the Vel d'Hiv roundup in Paris, an action carried out by the French police on Petain's orders. There were few survivors - a mere handful - and most of those were young children at the time. Tatiana de Rosney does an excellent job of telling the story of this horrific event in Sarah's Key.
Until very recently even the fact that there WERE Jewish partisans was not particularly well known, at least not in popular mediums. Leon Uris talks about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in Exodus. Rudi Weiss joins the Jewish partisans in Holocaust. Only in the last few years has the story of the Bielski Brothers - The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews and Defiance - truly documented the Jewish Resistance. As heroic as the Bielskis were, their group was not the only Jewish resistance group. It is vitally important that a couple of decades from now, when all who were there to witness or spoke to those who witnessed are gone, that people know that everyone did not march quietly to the slaughter like so many sheep, that the Bielskis were neither alone in their resistance nor an aberration. There is room in the historical record for The Remnant - Stories of the Jewish Resistance in WWII.
Othniel Seiden's story has its foundations in a great deal of research - interviews, records of the Nuremberg proceedings, diaries left behind by those who lived these events - and he has done a remarkable job of presenting characters that are accurate & compelling composites.
Some have commented negatively on his portrayal of the role of the Roman Catholic Church in Hitler's Final Solution, particularly as regards the Pope in office at the time of World War II, a role that has been the subject of great debate over the years, debate that is not yet entirely settled. The basic facts that Seiden addresses in this regard - that the Catholic Church had a pact with Hitler and that the Vatican helped thousands of Nazis to escape Europe at the end of World War II - are grounded in known, demonstrable facts. It is only since the papacy of Pope John Paul II, himself a Polish seminary student during World War II, that there has been some attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Pope Pius XII regarding his actions towards the Nazis and the "Final Solution." Had Seiden chosen to present this rehabilitative material, information that would have been unknown to the characters at the time during which these events occurred, would be to rewrite history. That would be a grave error.
Highly recommended. This is worth your time to read.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2010
This book is a must read for students interested in WWII. A good look at the dangers and day-to-day life of resistance behind enemy lines battling the elements as well as the enemy, and the amazing people who risked it all to help defeat the Nazis. These Jews did not meekly go to the gas chambers. You keep asking yourself what you would do in a similar situation.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2012
I'll make this short. This book goes well beyond what Shindler's List was trying to convey. A powerful 'must read' story about how no matter how much hatred inflicted onto the Jews, it didn't take away their will to prevail. It's a great window into how perpetrators escape their own self hatred by persecuting others. And the irony of this is it doesn't work. You still have to deal with your own demons. This book is all about what really matters in this short time we spend on this planet
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2012
I was a child when the war started and have had an interest in the history of WWII. I have seen the clips of some of the terrible things that happend in Europe and Asia. This book has given me an insight that I never had before. When Solomon talked to Father Peter about how it was to be Jew in Christian society I was astounded. The bitterness expressed by Sol, his Rachel being killed, Ivan and Soacha being rounded up in a sweep with her being gassed in a gas van and Ivan being killed in an attempt to break out of a concentration camp, represent huge reasons for his bitterness. The events at Babi Yar are heartbreaking with the Jews not only dealing with the Germans but also the anti-semitic Ukrainians who got into the mix.
This is a hard read if you have any empathy or sympathy for people, not only Jews, but Gypsies,Communists, political prisoners, general populations of occupied countries were always at risk the the list goes on who were ruthlessly murdered by the Nazis. Reading of the horror that the Jews went through, I took away the reality of the incredible blessing of freedom that I enjoy.
Politicians, some of which have charisma, an ability to mesmerize, excite with their words are to be regarded with suspicion. To vote on the basis of excitement and charisma can have many unintended consequences as was the case with Hitler. This despot had it all figured out with a subsequent loss of freedoms and other horrific outcomes for millions.
Read this book, understand what the Jews have gone through for hundreds of years, and for the first time in my life I have really thought about the circumstances surrounding the gathering of the Jews in Palestine which became Israel in 1948. I have been to Israel, Lebanon and Syria. The Jews have made the desert bloom, Lebanon and Syria, no comparison. What the Jews needed was a gathering place, they have it and I am grateful.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2012
Ive read over a hundred holocaust memoirs. This is by far one of my favourites. Id been looking for stories
About "Babi Yar" and not finding much untill I read this masterpiece. Not all Jews were shuffled off to death unknowingly. Some fought back. And fought back hard. This book is that gripping tale. I could hardly put it down!!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2011
this is an excellent book. it shows a side of the war that is very rarely spoken about . the bravery and endurance for survival of the jewish people shown with in this book is amazing. this book is also very heartbreakingand reminds us not forget the reality of anti semitism that's still very alive today .
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2009
Very moving and extreemly well written book. I was moved to tears many times. I have to admit that I knew nothing about the Jewish resistance fighters until I read this book. A must read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2012
Having an intense interest in the Holocaust for most of my adult life, this book was an easy choice when it popped up on my Kindle. I expect to feel disgust, anger and sadness when reading accounts of the Holocaust-what I didn't expect was how this book made me examine myself, and analyze what I believe in my heart...
I am struggling to put into words what I am feeling, but I will try...
Sol makes the point when talking to the priest that Christians have been taught from birth that the only way is through Christ, and they are all anti-Semitic, even if sub-consciously... I consider myself a Christian, but was not raised in any particular "religion"- as a result, I only have the Bible to go on, where it is repeatedly said that the Jews are Gods Chosen people... I can't imagine that has changed. God is not fickle. Is God going to refuse the Jewish people, who also love and serve Him? If I thought that were possible than maybe He isn't a God I want to serve...
As long as anyone is condemning someone else for having a different belief system than their own, we are doomed to repeat history. There are many paths to God. It makes me cringe when any one religion claims theirs' is the ONLY way. We need to embrace each other, as equal children of God, and remember that the Greatest Commandment is LOVE. Who are we to judge another?
I highly recommend this book. It is a story of incredible courage and perseverance... it will definately make you think!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2012
The Remnants: Stories of the Jewish Resistance.
By Othneil J. Seiden
I loved this book! I wasn't sure what to expect when I got it, but upon reading the forward I was prepared for a wonderful historical novel. What I got was even better! I got a novel that was so based in fact and true stories that almost every encounter, every event, could be looked up and backed by historical fact. I did.
I love a book that takes me so deep in the history of an event and makes it all so real that it sends me into research mode to verify things and learn more. This book did this in spades. What should have been a day or two read, turned into almost a week because I had to keep stopping and looking things up; I have over two pages of notes on events and people and rumors that I had to chase down. And Mr. Seiden never disappointed me, every part was true, from the Trench at Babi Yar, to the constant gun fire going on there by the Nazi's once they invaded Kiev. The fact that Soviet held countries, the Jews in particular, welcomed the German's as liberators from the prejudice, suppressive Communist party, only to find themselves in worse shape than they were before. The small bands of resistance fighters, turning into larger bands, the woods of Russia and the Russian weather providing the native fighters hiding places and advantages over the better equip German army. The pain of the bands too far away to heed the calls from the Warsaw Ghetto when they had their uprising Passover of 1943, and with each call they knew that no one was going to help them, not the closer resistance groups, not the allies, no one went the aid of these people that fought for over a month with no back up.
The mob mentality of the people, turning on their neighbor's wasn't a surprise to me, having learned all this from a historical view point growing up more than 40 years after the fact, but in this author's writing I can see that it wasn't a surprise to him either, or his characters he writes about, having been pushed to the background, into slums, ignored by their government and spit up on by their peers over time, they expected it. The Pogrom's that the Church organized and the Government looked the other way during which they went in and massacred as many Jews as they could for centuries. What surprised them was the way the supposedly civilized German people treated them. The dislike and distrust of the Vatican and the Catholics in general, the people of the time had came through loud and clear in this work, but what came through also was the belief that people could go against what they had been taught all their life. By accepting some Genitals into their group, and trusting the fledgling groups location and plans to the couple that saved Solomon, and the Priest that spoke against the killings, and later sent Jews to them, and eventually joined them; yes, Mr. Seiden was able see all sides of the fallible humans that got caught in Hitler's quest for power and world domination.
I give this book a rating of five solid stars, and am recommending it to any of my friends that have any type of interest in this area of history. Thank you for writing this book, and for giving me something new to learn about a time I thought I had pretty much exhausted all avenues on. I loved every part of this book, every death cut me, but I know it was war and it wasn't going to be pretty going into it. There wouldn't be roses and birds singing all through the story line, but they were there when it was most unexpected. A great tale very carefully and thoroughly researched and plotted out. Thank you for sharing it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2012
This is an amazing story, and thanks to the author for writing this book! These are things we cannot, should not, ever forget. The horrors of the Holocaust are mind boggling. This book told of the horrors that took place in the Ukraine, at Babi Yar. I've heard about the death camps, of course, but have never heard of this particular atrocity. To learn of the bravery of the Jews and Gentiles who fought the Germans with their intelligence and bravery was so inspiring. I cried many tears, cheered the resistance, was sickened by the cruelty, and inspired by this amazing story!