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This gripping memoir is written in spare, powerful prose that vividly depicts the endless degradation and humiliation suffered by the Holocaust's innocent victims, as well as the unending horror of life in the camps. It's also an ennobling account of the triumph of the human spirit, as seen through a child's eyes.
Long before dawn crept through the windows of the wooden barrack, Marion stirred in Mama's arms. She had slept this way, wrapped in her mother's warmth, for many weeks now, ever since her family had arrived at the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen in northwestern Germany.
All around her were the sounds of the other women and children, lying in the three-decker bunks that ran the length of the barrack. As Marion came awake, the muffled noises sharpened. There were gasps and moans, rattling coughs, and short, piercing cries. And there was the ever-present stench of unwashed bodies, disease, and death.
Hardly a morning passed without some of the prisoners no longer able to rise from their thin straw mattresses. When the guards came to round up the women and children for roll call, they stopped briefly to examine the unmoving forms. Later those who had died in the night would be tumbled from their bunks onto crude stretchers, and their bodies taken away to be burned or buried in mass graves. Soon new prisoners would arrive to take their places. As many as six hundred would be crowded into barracks meant to hold a hundred.
Mama nudged Marion. "Get up, Liebling. It's time."
As soon as Mama withdrew her arms, thin as they had become, the warmth vanished, and the chill of the unheated room gripped Marion's nine-year-old body. Cold and hunger. In her first weeks at Bergen-Belsen, Marion had been unable to decide which was worse. Soon, however, the constant gnawing sensation in her belly began to vanish. Her stomach accustomeditself to the daily ration of a chunk of black bread and a cup of watery turnip soup, and its capacity shrank. But the bitter chill of the long German winter went on and on.
On one of her earliest days in the camp Marion had actually believed that she saw a wagonload of firewood approaching. Perhaps it would stop in front of the barrack and some logs would be fed into the empty stove that was supposed to heat the entire room, for a few hours of glorious warmth. But she had been horribly mistaken. The wagon trundled past, and a closer look told her that it was filled not with firewood but with the naked, sticklike bodies of dead prisoners.
As on all winter mornings, getting dressed in the predawn grayness took no time at all. Marion had slept in just about everything she owned. All she had to do was to put her arms through the sleeves of the tattered coat that she had used as an extra covering under the coarse, thin blanket the camp provided.
Soon the cries of the Kapos (Kameradshaftspolizei, or police aides) -privileged prisoners who served as guards-were heard as they moved from barrack to barrack.
Zum Appell! Appell! RausJuden!"
Marion and Mama must now find a way to relieve themselves before hurrying to the large square, with its watchtower and armed guards, where the daily Appell, or roll call, took place. There was not always time to visit the communal outhouse, about a block away from the barrack. The toilets in the outhouse were simply a long wooden bench with holes in it, suspended over a trench. There was no water to flush away the waste, no toilet paper, and, of course, no privacy.
Some mornings Marion and Mama and the other prisoners had to use whatever receptacles they owned as night buckets -- even the very mugs or bowls in which they received their daily rations. Before leaving the bar-rack for Appell, the prisoners had to make sure the room was clean, the floor swept, and their beds made. Each inmate stood in front of her bunk for inspection. If the blankets were not tucked neatly enough around the sagging straw mattresses, punishments were meted out. The slightest infraction could mean losing one's bread ration for the day.
Roll call was held twice a day, at six in the morning and again after the prisoners had returned from their work assignments. It was held in winter and summer, in ice and snow, in rain and mud. If a single personwas missing because of sickness, death, or an attempted escape, all the prisoners were made to stand at attention, in rows of five, for hours -- even for a whole day -- without food or water or any way to relieve themselves.
Some prisoners did try to escape, but very few succeeded. Each section of the camp was surrounded by a high fence of barbed wire. The fence was charged with electricity and had pictures of death's-heads posted on it as a warning. Prisoners who attempted to scale the fence were electrocuted. Others who tried to escape while on a work detail, outside the fenced areas, were almost always caught by the watchful eyes of the armed guards, by keen-nosed police dogs, or at night by sweeping searchlights.
Marion hoped, as she did every morning, that the roll call in the square would be over as quickly as possible. Then, after dismissal, there might be a few moments to see Papa and her eleven-year-old brother, Albert, who were imprisoned in separate barracks in the men's section.
In Westerbork, the Dutch camp where the family had lived before, all four of them had been housed in crude but private quarters. However, no such arrangement existed for any of the prisoners in Bergen-Belsen. Actually they were told they should consider themselves "lucky" to be in the section of the camp known as the Sternlager, or Star Camp. Here male and female prisoners were allowed to meet briefly during the day. Also, they could dress in their own clothes instead of striped prison uniforms. But of course, they must wear the yellow Star of David high up on the left side of the chest, as they had been forced to do for many years now. In the center of the six-pointed star the word Jude (German for "Jew") was inscribed in black.Four Perfect Pebbles. Copyright © by Lila Perl. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted January 19, 2013
I found this book uncommonly absorbing, for being written in a biography style. Mostly you will learn about many events from World War II, and how a true story was played out for the Blumenthal family.
I expected the book to be okay, but as it turned out, I really enjoyed it! I truly recommend this book for anyone at all, who is interested in reading a real life Holocaust story.
This was a very intriguing book. The character Marion was very real and lovable. the only problem was at the beginning, for the first five pages it was a detailed story. But it suddenly turned into a biography with out much detail. besides that it was a good book. I would recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 25, 2009
This was an amazing book for our whole family. We all really enjoyed the book. I once heard someone say that prejudice is taught and learned. If life is looked at openly and people learn to form their own opinions then this world would be a better place. People would then hopefully stop judging for all of the wrong reasons of which were instilled in them and have a more open outlook on life. We want our child and our family to look at things openly and especially for our child to look at things for what they are not to judge by the color of someones skin or their backround, or religious beliefs. This brought such great topics of conversation. Our children must learn the past so they can be openminded about our future.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 17, 2009
Four Perfect Pebbles
I give these book four stars. I think this is one of the best Holocaust books I have ever read. Because this is the only Holocaust book I have read. But this makes me won't to read more Holocaust books. One of the reasons I like the book so much was because it was a true life story.
The book is about this girl if she could find four perfect pebbles almost exactly the same size and shape it meant that her family would remain whole. Mama and Papa and she and Albert would survive Bergen-Belsen. The four of them might have even survived the Nazis' attempt to destroy every last Jew in Europe.
Following Hitler's rise to power, the Blumenthal Family-father, mother, Marion and her brother Albert- were trapped in Nazi German. They managed eventually to get to Holland, but soon thereafter it was occupied by the Nazis. For the next six and a half years the Blumenthal's were forced to live in refugee, transit, and prison camp. Their story is one of the horror and hardship, but it is also a story of courage, hope, and the will to survive.
Posted April 2, 2008
Today the author of this book, Marian Blumenthal Lazan, came to my school and talked about her experiences during the Holocaust. Some of us even got to eat lunch with her and ask questions. I haven't finished the book yet, but I would recommend this for anyone who is curious about the Holocaust and would like to read a memoir/first hand account.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 17, 2007
This was a great book. It makes you thankful for the little things in your life like heat and food. And it is one of the most heat moving holocaust books that i ever read!!! 'i have read a lot'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 1, 2007
Posted March 29, 2007
This book is soo amazing. I haven't finished it yet but so far I love it! This woman, Marion, is sooo wonderful! I just met her today. She came and spoke to my school and shared her hardships and experiences with us. It was definately a very emotional experience for everyone in the room. I know it changed my entire outlook on life and how I take everything for granted. I just have so much respect for her. And it breaks my heart that anyone could do that to any living being.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 13, 2007
She came to my school a couple of years ago. She was wonderful. It was hard for her to talk about her experience. The book is fantastic. Very sad but it puts what life was like in the holocaust into perspective. I really enjoyed it. A very good read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 18, 2006
I think that the book was so so. It was great about the facts it gave about the Holocaust but it wasn't as descriptive and pulled together as I think it should have been. But I would still recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 22, 2007
Posted December 28, 2006
I first read this book when I was in the 6th grade. Ever since then it has stuck to my memory like a bad dream. Not to mean that in a negative way because I absolutely love this book. I would love to meet the author because this was absolutely brilliant. I am now in the 11th grade and I will recommend it to my friends if there is a project or report due on the Holocaust. At the end you feel a sense of bitter happiness but you feel hope for yourself. Beautiful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2005
WE READ THIS BOOK IN SCHOOL AND I JUST CRIED MY EYES OUT! I REALLY LIKE TO READ THESE TYPE OF BOOKS TO LEARN AND UNDERSTAND WHY IT WAS DONE! I FEEL BAD ABOUT ALL THE JEWS WHO DIED BECAUSE THEY ARE AS EQUAL AS THE REST OF US!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 10, 2004
Posted September 9, 2004
This book is a verry good book.i liked it because it was verry detailed. It was a verry sad book...i think it was a sad book because the family did not have verry much to live for except their family.READ IT!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 12, 2004
This book was a really great one. It was assigned to me for a World War 2 assighment and i never thought I would enjoy this book because I don't really like History that much. But once it started talking about Anne Frank it got me interested and i finished it in no time at all. It was very touching and I never knew so much horrible things happend at the time.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 8, 2004
Posted December 1, 2003
Posted November 9, 2003
This book is very sad, but at the same time, it is such an incredible story. It is amazing what this family goes through, and through all of it, they keep postive. I love the way this book is written, and i love the book itself. Its a great read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 14, 2003