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home : features : book review April 29, 2016

3/30/2012 6:01:00 AM
Memoir shows the will to survive can conquer evil

Clark Isaacs
KDM contributor

Bitter Freedom: Memoir of a Holocaust Survivor, by Jafa Wallach; 978-0-9819906-3-7; 209 Pages; $18.95; Published March 2012; Paperback; Published by Gihon River Press

Holocaust books have special meaning as they narrate what happened prior to the genocide of millions of Jews and under the Nazis during World War II.

The occupation of Poland and the establishment of ghettos is often the theme of many of these books.

"Bitter Freedom" highlights how several family members were able to survive in the face of extreme odds.

Historically, Germany and Russia were allies at the start of the occupation of Poland. A river divided the two segments so that the Nazi regime was on one side and the Russians were on the other.

People who lived on either side of the river found themselves having to live with different types of oppression.

Nazis shot Jews, Gypsies, the infirm, and put the rest in concentration camps. Russians took away land ownership, animals, crops and said they belonged to everyone. Those who were lucky enough to survive struggled to make sense of all the turmoil.

"Bitter Freedom" is the story of unbelievable circumstances, which enabled a husband, wife, and her two brothers to survive the fate of six million Jews throughout Europe.

Natan Wallach was a physician who was able to continue aiding the ill until it became apparent that he and his wife would suffer the fate of the rest of the Jews in their area.

During a confused period when the Nazi soldiers were not sure of their roles, Natan and Jafa Wallach were able to leave their confinement through a gate left opened by the guards.

Natan and Jafa sought refuge at the home of the town's mechanic. Under his mechanic shop, they found a place to hide.

When they first entered this underground hideout, they had a small shovel with which to dig out a space to lie in. Little did they realize at the time, they would be there for the next 22 months!

The mechanic, Jozef Zwonarz, was the only person who knew they were in this 5 x 4½-foot hole, which was 4 feet deep.

During the day, they had to be silent because 20 feet away was the Gestapo headquarters with their trained German shepherds.

During this entire period, it appeared to the Nazis that Jozef Zwonarz was a patriot for the German cause. In reality, he was a saboteur! He put salt in their gas tanks, aided the underground and retrieved food for his hidden friends.

Many twists and turns take place with regard to the Wallach family.

Their survival shows how under the most oppressive conditions, the will to survive can conquer the evil that some men do to others.

Even after liberation by the Russians, the Wallachs had many harrowing experiences until they emigrated to the United States in May 1947.

This is a highly recommended 5-star book.

Publishers Weekly



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5. Private Games, by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan


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5. Blood Sugar Solution: The Ultrahealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now!, by Mark Hyman

Clark Isaacs is an accomplished book critic who published in local newspapers and national book review lists. He is a member of the faculty of Mohave Community College in Kingman. Visit Clark Isaacs at http://clarkisaacs.ning.com.

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