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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A striking Holocaust memoir, posthumously published, by a Romanian Jew with an unusual story to tell. From its opening pages, in which she recounts her own premature birth, triggered by terrifying rumors of an incipient pogrom, Bernstein's tale is clearly not a typical memoir of the Holocaust. She was born into a large family in rural Romania between the wars and grew up feisty and willing to fight back physically against anti-Semitism from other schoolchildren. She defied her father's orders to turn down a scholarship that took her to Bucharest, and got herself expelled from that school when she responded to a priest/teacher's vicious diatribe against the Jews by hurling a bottle of ink at him. Ashamed to return home after her expulsion, she looked for work in Bucharest and discovered a talent for dressmaking. That talent--and her blond hair, blue eyes, and overall Gentile appearance--allowed her entry into the highest reaches of Romanian society, albeit as a dressmaker. Bernstein recounts the growing shadow of the native fascist movement, the Iron Guard, a rising tide of anti-Semitic laws, and finally, the open persecution of Romania's Jews. After a series of incidents that ranged from dramatic escapes to a year in a forced labor detachment, Sara ended up in Ravensbrck, a women's concentration camp deep in Germany. Nineteen out of every twenty women transported there died. The author, her sister Esther, and two other friends banded together and, largely due to Sara's extraordinary street smarts and intuition, managed to survive. Although Bernstein was not a professional writer, she tells this story with style and power. Her daughter Marlene contributes a moving epilogue to close out Sara's life. One of the best of the recent wave of Holocaust memoirs. (b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"There are many recent accounts of Holocaust victims, but this work stands alone as a testimony to personal strength and an independent spirit." ---Library Journal
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Product Details

  • MP3 CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio; MP3 - Unabridged CD edition (December 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452655987
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452655987
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,865,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

177 of 185 people found the following review helpful By Allyn on March 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Seren Tuvel began her life as a carefree child growing up in a beautiful, peaceful part of Romania. Secure in her intelligence and in the love of her eight siblings and parents, the anti-Semitism that raged in Romania seemed nothing more than an annoyance to Seren and her family. After receiving a full scholarship to attend a prestigious gymnasium (high school) in Bucharest, Seren travels to her country's capital to city to quench her thirst for learning. This dream of gaining knowledge is abruptly ended, however, when Seren throws an inkwell in the face of one of her professors after he makes an anti-Jewish remark. She flees the school, begins work as a seamstress, and enjoys city life. Nazis invade Bucharest and the entire Romanian country; Seren feels that she can take care of herself. Yet soon this feeling of security fades and Seren decides that she must go back to her country home to escape the growing Jewish persecution in the city. Disaster meets her there as well when she and her father are rounded up in a horrifying night raid by the Nazis and sent to a federal prison, where they are falsely accused of being government spies. Seren is released from prison, yet as she receives word that her father is losing his mind, and realizes the destruction of Jewish life around her, she knows that her "journey" is far from over. Indeed, the pages of her story take us deep into the horrors of Auschwitz, and show us how somehow, Seren "rebuilt" her tortured life following the war.
In many ways, this Holocaust memoir is not extraordinary in its genre. However, in a few key ways, Seren's memoir is supremely effective and unforgettable. First, as I read "The Seamstress", I was amazed by the utter lack of bitterness in the book.
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88 of 90 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
Like others, I could not put this book down. Seren's story was captivating--she was incredibly strong in the face of horror. The fact that she was not German and explains what happened to the Jews in Eastern Europe gave me a perspective I have not had. And, like other reviewers, I found her lack of bitterness amazing. This was the first Holocaust book I've read which made me understand that people had no idea what happened to members of their families. I knew it before; this time I felt it.
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74 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Anyechka on July 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is the first book about the Shoah I've read that takes place in Romania (apart from the excerpt from Miriam Korber's diary in the anthology 'Salvaged Pages'). All of the other books and memoirs are from places like Poland, Hungary, Germany, France, Holland, anywhere but Romania, which also suffered mighty losses during the Shoah, though not always in the same way as in those other conquered nations. Seren was the third-last child of a huge family, composed of both full siblings and half-siblings, and despite having a strict father and living in a nation with rampant anti-Semitism, even among small children who were taught to hate, a land where Jews were not granted civil rights and civil liberties until 1923, and then only very reluctantly, she always stood apart from others. She was willing to fight back and to be her own person, to leave home at 13 to attend the gymnasium in Bucharest, to strike out on her own after throwing a bottle of ink at an anti-Semitic priest teacher and never going back to the gymnasium. Seren loved being a dressmaker, even designing gowns for members of Romania's Royal Family, though she didn't tell her family for some time what she was really doing and that she'd left gymnasium.

Unlike many other Shoah memoirs, this begins when Seren is quite young and continues through her childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. (She is also a bit older than the typical writers of such memoirs; she was 26 years old when she was forced into the labor brigade and the camps, not a teenager or even in her early twenties.) There were increasing incidents of anti-Semitism both at home and in surrounding nations, but things are still relatively "normal" a lot longer than in many other memoirs of this nature.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jan Weiss on August 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
My fathers family from Romanian perished in the Holocaust and I was curious about the history of the Romanian Jews which is why I chose this book. I read it in four days. Seren is the type of person you will never forget. It was her courage and the loyalty she had to her sister Esther and to Ellen and Lily that kept them alive. It is told in a very straight forward manner and Seren never glosses over the facts. I am aamzed that she was able to survive the camps and the trainride near the end of the book and that she continued to use that strength to get her past the war and to her married life and a mother to her children. I highly recommend this book, and not just to those of a Jewish heritage but to anyone because of the inspiration I found in this book. Seren Tuvel is a woman I would have been honored to know.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
This was one of the most frightening and interesting books I have ever read. I stayed awake many nights after reading this book and contemplated what life must have been like for Seren. I think people of all ages should read her story and discuss it with family (especially children) and friends. We must all remember Seren's bravery and the tremendous tragedy of the Holocaust to prevent it from happening again in the future. I wish Seren were still alive. She would be on my list of top ten people to meet.
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