Monday, May 1, 2017

Zalman Ber - Sol Kotz and Lisa Mishler

Summary: Zalman Ber's story, told in his own voice, is a powerful addition to the historical recountings of World War II. Together, he and his wife, Luba, survived the Holocaust. They escaped the horrors the Nazis inflicted on their Polish villages. They fought with partisans. Then later, Zalman enlisted with the Russian military.

Their story is about love, war, heroism, and miracles. It is a testament to their resiliency and capacity not just to survive, but to flourish and rise above tremendous adversity. Love, courage, and a sheer force of will drove Luba during her long journey to find Zalman, alone, in one of the coldest winters in recorded history while being surrounded by Nazi soldiers. Luba with her sensitivity influenced Zalman when, time and time again, he should have been killed and was not. Their story deserves to be experienced and honored. (Summary and image from I was provided a copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: Zalman Ber and his wife survived the ghettos of Poland. They survived the personalized attention and disdain of a Nazi commander. They joined the resistance, fought bravely, endured unimaginable personal loss, and survived the war. This is his story as told to his daughter, and it’s a powerful one.

Written in a conversational tone, almost as though the book is a transcript of her father’s interview, this is a simple book that grabs at your heart and humanizes some of the lesser-told stories of the Holocaust. It was sweet. It was fast — and I’m talking an hour and a half read. But don’t let the length diminish the worth of the story. Ber may succinctly lay out his struggles and his triumphs, but he doesn’t glaze over either personal failures or growth.

The style of writing perplexed me. At the beginning, I couldn’t decide if it was stylistic to write in broken English, or if it was a draft that had been published as an ARC. Confusing me further, there were numerous typos that are scattered throughout, and the English improves for a time, only to devolve toward the end. I don’t feel like the style lent itself to the story, rather it detracted from what is a powerful enough narrative in its own right. 

Rating: Three stars

For the Sensitive Reader: There are glancing mentions of sex and affairs. But they’re so brief you can blink and you’ll miss them.

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