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The Boy: A Holocaust Story Hardcover – October 26, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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


“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



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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: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,984,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dan Porat's book, "The Boy: A Holocaust Story" is, yes, the story of a Polish boy who may - or may not have been - the child in the famous picture taken of round-ups in the SS officer, Jurgen Stoop's of the Warsaw Ghetto in Spring, 1943. The child with his hands raised and a look of terror in his young eyes which has come to symbolise the horrors of Nazi Germany and its war against Europe's Jews.

But the book tells of the oppressors responsible for the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto; those brutal men who thought nothing of shooting pregnant women and children for sport while on a day's rounds. Three SS officers are singled out by Porat, who has poured over their life stories and ultimate fates as handed out by government judges after the war. The reader can contrast the victims with the "victors" in Porat's book.

The one inexplicable part of Porat's book is the telling of the war-time and post-war experiences of a young Polish Jewish woman. Her part in the book adds nothing to the ultimate question of who the boy in the picture was. Other than surviving the Ghetto liquidation and fighting with partisans, she appeared to have no connection with the story of the young boy. While interesting, Rivka's story seems to have been added to the manuscript for an unaccountable reason. Maybe to add length to a short manuscript?

In any case, Porat has written a good book and a good addition to Holocaust history.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a mixture of history and fiction. I've had a live-long interest in WWII and the Holocaust. There are events, documents, and photographs in this book that I haven't heard about or seen before, so I really appreciate the author's research. What was confusing to me is blending the author's fictional accounts about characters (who may not have even existed) with the history. Maybe that means this is an historical novel, but I don't think that is the author's intent.
As for some of the previous comments, it is ridiculous to accuse someone of being anti-Semitic because their book review was negative.
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