- Series: The Helen Rose Scheuer Jewish Women's Series
- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: The Feminist Press; First Thus edition (April 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1558614362
- ISBN-13: 978-1558614369
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 48 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered (The Helen Rose Scheuer Jewish Women's Series) Paperback – April 1, 2003
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"Instead of God I believe in ghosts," writes the literary scholar Ruth Kluger in this harrowing memoir of life under the yellow star, a controversial bestseller in Germany.
Born in Vienna, Kluger somehow survived a girlhood spent in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Gross-Rosen. Some of the lessons she imparts are surprising, as when she argues, against other historians, that the female camp guards were far more humane than their male counterparts, and when she admits that she has difficulty today queuing in line, a constant of camp life, "out of revulsion for the bovine activity of simply standing." Her memories of her youth are punctuated by sharp reflections on the meaning of the Shoah and how it should best be memorialized in a time when ever fewer survivors are left to act as witnesses. Those reflections are often angry--"Absolutely nothing good came out of the concentration camps," she writes, recalling an argument with a naive German graduate student, "and he expects catharsis, purgation, the sort of thing you go to the theatre for?"
But they are constantly provocative, too. Though readers will doubtless take issue with some of her conclusions, Kluger's insistent memoir merits a wide audience. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
In the 1950s, when Kluger's children were small and growing up in the U.S., she caught German measles from them. Her family doctor said, "You must have led a sheltered childhood." In reality, she spent her early years in Theresienstadt and Birkenau-Auschwitz. Kluger's memoir which has already become a bestseller in Germany is a startling, clear-eyed and unflinching examination of growing up as a Jewish girl during the Holocaust. Calmly, and chillingly, relating the everyday events of her youth Aryan students making colored paper swastikas and then asking Jewish students to judge them, breaking the law to go to an Aryan movie house to see Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and being challenged by a neighbor Kluger charts how she and her family moved from a middle-class Viennese life to dealing with the constant threat of death in the camps. Kluger's style is wry ("the muse of history has a way of cracking bad jokes at the expense of the Jews"), and she can shock readers with simple, honest admissions, such as her embarrassment, in the 1970s, when her mother asks unanswerable questions of a speaker about the death camps. Kluger, who is now professor emerita at UC-Irvine and has won awards for this memoir as well as her literary criticism, has written a deeply moving and significant work that raises vital questions about cultural representations of the Holocaust (why did the highly praised, socially conscious 1947 film Gentleman's Agreement never mention "the Jewish catastrophe"?) and searches for what it means to be a survivor. Already compared by European critics to the work of Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel, this is an important addition to Jewish, Holocaust and women's studies. (Nov.) Forecast: This is a standout in the crowded field of Holocaust memoirs and should have strong sales.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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The story was overall good and I'm glad I tool the time to read it. The only thing I didn't like is that it was jumpy. She talked about different things 8n different chapters from her past, from the present, something else she had already talked about before but added more detail.
Kluger's personality comes across as irrepressible. Her book inspires me rather than depressing me. For example, having described her childhood compulsion to memorize poetry early in the book, Kluger mentions composing poems about the camps with (not so appropriate) catchy rhythms and rhymes, because it made them easier to memorize, and of course she had to commit them to memory since paper and writing implements were scarce, and anyhow, how else could one be sure of holding onto them? I smile as I remember that. Even as she starved for food and water, she found a way to create treasures that no one could take away from her, as long as she lived.
I have to confess that I do not read German, so I would not be able to appreciate Dr. Kluger's literary criticism. I am sad that she has not published more poetry and observations of life.
Without being too judgmental of Ms. Kluger, at the same time I suspect Ms. Kluger would prefer me to be honest. And my opinion may be colored because I recently read Clara's War, in my opinion one of the finest survival memoirs I have ever read.
There is no question that the author has put the full force of her intellect and personality in this book. She has strong opinions on a whole range of topics, and delves deeply into her difficult relations with schoolmates and teachers growing up, her mother, her relatives, her children, her ex-husband, his friends, colleagues, even her psychotherapist.
And that's the common theme running through this book -- she pretty much has difficult relations with everyone she meets. Whether intentional or not, Ms. Kluger comes off through the pages of this book as someone who is not entirely likable, who is very judgmental, critical, somewhat pretentious in terms of her academic standing, defensive, and who justifies at length a series of uncomfortable anecdotes in which she has difficulty with numerous disparate people, places, and events.
Because Ms. Kluger strongly denounces the "victimology" that has grown around the horrific events of the Holocaust, I am quite certain the author wants to be evaluated based on who she is, not what she went through (terribly) as a child. And I agree with many of her views and her perspective on man/woman relations, human suffering and various social issues.
Still, I was pleased to be done with the book.