Monday, April 13, 2009
A Lucky Child
Thomas Buergenthal has indeed had luck play a role in his life, as he writes in A Lucky Child. Born in Czechoslovakia to German and Polish parents, Buergenthal had a few idyllic years growing up in the hotel his family owned. Hitler and the Nazi regime changed all that when he was still a small boy, turning his family out of their home. They journeyed to Poland where after a time they were placed in a Ghetto and eventually were transferred to Auschwitz. Buergenthal arrived in Auschwitz a ten year old boy, miraculously escaped the selection process and found himself a prisoner in a place where children did not fare well. Burgenthal survived the death march and another concentration camp before he was set free.
The story of Thomas Buergenthal is extraordinary in many ways. I cannot say I've ever read about a child surviving Auschwitz. Time and time again, the quick-thinking and creativity of his parents, and the luck of being in the right place and meeting the right people (or perhaps not being in the wrong place or meeting the wrong people) contributed to Buergenthal's capability to survive another day, to escape another close call.
Buergenthal goes on to travel with the Polish army after the war and is eventually and happily reunited with his mother after living in a Jewish orphanage. The portrait he paints of his life in Germany after the war is fascinating as well, being one of only a few Jewish people in his town. Buergenthal eventually emigrated to the US where he became a lawyer devoted to upholding international human rights, a job he is uniquely qualified for.
Buergenthal's story is simply told. He is honest about what events he remembers and which are not as clear. Buergenthal is an articulate and self-aware human being, who has shaped his life around avoiding hatred and upholding the rights of all. We are lucky indeed, to have this memoir, a unique document of a child who survived the Nazi concentration camps.
Many thanks to Hachette Book Group for this review copy. A Lucky Child will be published on April 20.