by Heidi Fried
Remembering the past in all its glory and/or depravity is the first step to changing the future. Someone has said that if we do not remember the past, we are doomed to repeat it. Since Heidi Fried lived through the events of the Holocaust, she is able to help us see clearly what happened in the hope that we never repeat that history.
Some people today are so ignorant that they are even saying the Holocaust did not happen. Fried shows the reader clearly that it really happened. The question of why it happened at all is one that can never be answered to anyone’s satisfaction. It is probably best just to acknowledge that it did happen and to do everything in our power to see that it never happens again. That is Fried’s position.
Her book is designed to answer questions she has encountered over her lifetime. At the age of 90 she has reached the step of gerotransendence in her life and thus is able to look back at all that happened to her with a detachment that probably was not possible for her earlier. Her dispassionate responses to the questions are reflective of her age.
Fried explains about how World War II changed her life as a Romanian Jew who was from a good middle class family to being a slave in a labor/extermination camp. At nineteen, she was looking forward to continuing her education at a university, but instead she found herself orphaned with a younger sister to care for and to try to keep both of them alive. Fortunately, both girls were in their late teens and appeared strong enough to work—at least for a while—for the Nazis. Both girls survived and went to live in Sweden.
Fried answers over forty questions for the reader. Some of them are quite personal, such as: Where you raped? How did you handle your periods? Why did you choose Sweden? Others are more philosophical, such as: Why did Hitler hate the Jews? After all that has happened, do you still believe in God? Could it happen again?
Many authors have produced good works about the Holocaust, but I feel that first person narratives are the best source of true information. Every library should add this book to its collection. Social studies teachers would find this a very valuable source for discussions on the Holocaust. Fried even provides a list of discussion questions. I highly recommend the purchase of this book.