Friday, December 23, 2011

Book Review - Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Buccieri

SynopsisEva Mozes Kor was 10 years old when she arrived in Auschwitz. While her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, she and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man known as the Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele. Mengele's twins were granted the privileges of keeping their own clothes and hair, but they were also subjected to sadistic medical experiments and forced to fight daily for their own survival, as most of the twins died as a result of the experiements or from the disease and hunger pervasive in the camp. In a narrative told with emotion and restraint, readers will learn of a child's endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil. The book also includes an epilogue on Eva's recovery from this experience and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis. Through her museum and her lectures, she has dedicated her life to giving testimony on the Holocaust, providing a message of hope for people who have suffered, and working toward goals of forgiveness, peace, and the elimination of hatred and prejudice in the world.

First Line:  "The doors of the train car were thrown all the way open for the first time in many days, the light of day shining upon us like a blessing."

Random Quote:  "The sunshine warmed me up a little, and I tried desperately not to tremble so that the pflergerin, or nurses, would not notice I was sick.  I did not want to be taken to the infirmary.  On two occasions a twin in our barracks had become sick and had been taken to the infirmary.  They never came back.  The matching twin had then also been taken away and they did not return either."

Review:  I approached this book with some trepidation. How would it be possible to write a book about surviving Josef Mengele's twin experiments at Auschwitz?  How would it be possible to teach children about this horror without traumatizing them into lifelong nightmares?

Mengele's Twins at Liberation (image source)
Some of my trepidation came from my own perception of Josef Mengele as the most terrifying member of the Nazi party.  He was the living template for every doctor in every horror story ever - both before and after he was alive.  The coldness and brutality of his actions, couched in the guise of Important Science are among the most shocking things I've known about.  When I first read about him as an adult he appeared in my nightmares regularly causing stark, raving terror every single time.

Surviving the Angel of Death took my breath away.  Not only is it completely age appropriate, it is also one of the most inspiring stories of human endurance, sisterhood, and forgiveness I've ever read.  It's a book that, along with The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank's diary) should be read by everyone.  It's not about the history, although that matters, it's about the human spirit - perhaps the sturdiest thing we all possess.

Eva and her twin Miriam (image source)
 I have been reading about and practicing some elements of Buddhism for many years.  I try, most of all, to practice mindfulness and compassion in every part of my life.  Sometimes I'm much more successful than others.  The one stumbling block in my life has always been forgiveness.  Part of me still believes in an Old Testament sort of notion that some acts are forever unforgivable.  Ms. Kors, the subject of a documentary, has spent much of her later life speaking and teaching on the Holocaust and forgiving those who did such terrible things to herself and her family.  Everything I've read about the importance of forgiveness and that it is a gift you give yourself coalesced for me in reading Ms. Kors talk about her life.  It's made it much easier to start working on forgiveness and, I think, will be life-changing in many ways I can't imagine right now.

(image source)
This is a powerful story and a powerful book.  It will haunt you and inspire you to rise above, to celebrate life's blessings.  A truly beautiful and life-changing read.

Recommended for readers grade 6 and above

FTC Disclosure:  Copy from the publisher for review via NetGalley - the paperback edition published by Tanglewood Press comes out in March of 2012.



  1. I will have to read in the world she is able to forgive the evil of the Holocaust is beyond me. We could all use a little of her spirit. Great review :)

  2. Wanted to stop by to wish you a wonderful Holiday; hope it means special time with family and friends.

  3. Mengele has two histories, one that people felt at the end of his fingers and thoughts for as long as he drew breath, and his history as the father of something called Monarch Programming. Try this for size:
    and if the hat fits, it was him , it is him and it will always be him.
    Over, and above, the official given history.


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