All Press Releases for July 27, 2012

Prompt Proofing Blog Post: Book Review - Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Those Who Save Us appears at first glance to be a book about the Holocaust, and, without doubt, the brutality of the Holocaust provides the setting for half the book - the half that is set during World War II.

    VANCOUVER, BC, July 27, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Those Who Save Us appears at first glance to be a book about the Holocaust, and, without doubt, the brutality of the Holocaust provides the setting for half the book - the half that is set during World War II. But this book goes far beyond that, examining the guilt and shame of those who survived and how they continue to be affected by the horrors, even many decades later.

The novel alternates between the story of Anna, a young girl at the outbreak of the war, now in her late 70s and living in Minnesota, and that of Anna's daughter Trudy who moved to America as a small child when her mother married an American soldier in 1945. Trudy is now a professor of history at a university in Minneapolis and struggles in her relationship with her aging mother, who refuses to speak about her experiences during the war or to discuss Trudy's father.

The reader is made aware early in the novel that Trudy's father was a Jewish doctor who Anna fell in love with, actually concealing him in her house until he was finally discovered and sent to Buchenwald. Yet Trudy assumes her father to be the Oberstormfuhrer with whom her mother was involved for years, and who features in an old photograph. While she loves her American stepfather, Trudy lives with the shame of her supposed Nazi parentage. As part of her job as professor of history, Trudy initiates a project, interviewing World War II survivors who were German citizens at the time of the Holocaust. Her interviews lead her to make many disturbing discoveries but eventually she begins to discover what her mother has been keeping secret for so many years.

This is not a novel to pick up if you have a busy schedule, for you will be unable to put it down until the final pages are reached. This book is not for the squeamish; there are many disturbing episodes involving Nazi brutality, yet how could a tale of this time be truly told without reference to these incidents? The emphasis on the reaction of the German civilians gives the reader a different perspective on the Holocaust. While some seem openly anti-Semitic, others are involved in the underground and risk everything to help the Jewish prisoners. When Buchenwald is liberated by the Americans, the German civilians are held accountable regardless of their involvement. The suffering, and near-starvation of the German people is also highlighted, something that is not always recorded in Anglo-American histories.

Anna endures the abusive relationship in order to ensure her daughter's safety; it causes her deep shame yet she comes to have some affectionate feelings for her abuser - who also saves her. Her continuing struggle with guilt and shame dominates the rest of her life. For this reader, one of the most poignant moments in the book occurs in the opening chapters when Anna and Trudy await the arrival of the townspeople at their home following Anna's husband's funeral. Anna has spent hours cleaning and polishing and has prepared a feast sufficient to feed a small army but not a single person will come back to the house; only later do we discover how Anna has been ostracized by her American neighbours since her first arrival in Minnesota with her GI husband.

Those Who Save Us forces the reader to look at the events of the Holocaust from a less usual perspective. Yet it is also a novel about shame and guilt and their effect on the protagonists.

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