I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust

I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust

4.7 212
by Livia Bitton-Jackson

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Imagine being a thirteen–year–old girl in love with boys, school, family—life itself. Then suddenly, in a matter of hours, your life is shattered by the arrival of a foreign army. You can no longer attend school, have possessions, talk to your neighbors. One day your family has to leave your house behind and move into a crowded ghetto, where you…  See more details below


Imagine being a thirteen–year–old girl in love with boys, school, family—life itself. Then suddenly, in a matter of hours, your life is shattered by the arrival of a foreign army. You can no longer attend school, have possessions, talk to your neighbors. One day your family has to leave your house behind and move into a crowded ghetto, where you lose all privacy and there isn’t enough food to eat. Still you manage, somehow, to adjust. But there is much, much worse to come…This is the memoir of Elli Friedmann, who was thirteen years old in March 1944, when the Nazis invaded Hungary. It describes her descent into the hell of Auschwitz, a concentration camp where, because of her golden braids, she was selected for work instead of extermination. In intimate, excruciating details she recounts what it was like to be one of the few teenage camp inmates, and the tiny but miraculous twists of fate that helped her survive against all odds. I Have Lived a Thousand Years is a searing story of cruelty and suffering, but at the same time it is a story of hope, faith, perseverance, and love. It will make you see the world in a new way—and it will make you want to change what you see.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Born in a small farming town in Hungary, Bitton-Jackson was 13 when Nazis forced her and her family into a Jewish ghetto and then sent them to Auschwitz. After a yearful of innumerable harrowing experiences, she was liberated. While the facts alone command attention, Bitton-Jackson's supple and measured writing would compel the reader even if applied to a less momentous subject. She brings an artist's recall to childhood experiences, conveying them so as to stir fresh empathy in the target audience, even those well-versed in Holocaust literature. She relates, for example, how the yellow star made her feel marked and humiliated, reluctant to attend her school's graduation; how existence in the ghetto, paradoxically, made her happy to be Jewish for the first time in her life; how an aunt terrified the family by destroying their most valuable belongings before deportation, so that the Germans could not profit by them. Her descriptions of Auschwitz and labor camps are brutal, frank and terrifying, all the more so because she keeps her observations personal and immediate, avoiding the sweeping rhetoric that has, understandably, become a staple of much Holocaust testimony. Of particular interest is her relationship with her mother, who survived with her (in part because of the author's determination and bravery after an accident left her mother temporarily paralyzed). An exceptional story, exceptionally well told. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
Written in the first person, young readers will experience the joys, terrors, hope and desperation of the author's personal recollections of living in Hungary in 1943, her survival in the concentration camps, and her eventual immigration to the United States. The book includes a family chronology of events, significant dates and eventsrelating to the Holocaust, and a glossary.
VOYA - Victoria Yablonsky
Elli Friedmann's recollections of the horror of the Holocaust begin in her native Hungary in 1944 when she and her family are taken from their home and sent on a journey that would eventually lead to Auschwitz. Her memoir covers 1944 to 1945, her thirteenth and fourteenth years, and relates in excruciating detail the living nightmare she endured in cattle cars on endless train rides and in several Nazi concentration camps. Her stories of humiliation, degradation, and despair vividly express her feelings about her loss of freedom and self. But the wonder of her story is her ability to overcome her nightmare through her spirit and determination never to give up. She survives her ordeal while helping her mother and brother, and they all return to their home at the end of the war and eventually emigrate to America. This is a young adult version of the author's earlier adult book, Elli: Coming of Age in the Holocaust (Times Books, 1980). It follows the first book closely, but it omits or simplifies some events and slightly changes language in some places. This would be a valuable purchase for junior high or YA collections, but is unnecessary for high schools that own Elli. Glossary. Chronology. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Will appeal with pushing, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
This is a remarkable book. Three years before Elli's story begins in 1943, Hungary occupied Czechoslovakia, and her father's business was confiscated. Now the Germans have occupied Hungary and Czechoslovakia, her school is closed, and Elli's dreams of going to school in Budapest, like her older brother Bubi, vanish. Every few nights German soldiers come in and take someone else away. When her father is told to join all the other men aged 18-45 for "deportation," Elli is devastated. Surely that's the worst thing that could happen; with her father gone how will she and her mother survive? We soon find out that her father's deportation is not the worst thing that could happen. Elli, her mother, and her brother are soon transported themselves, first to a ghetto, then to Auschwitz. Bitton-Jackson has detailed her feelings of love for her family, her need for her mother's approval of her actions, her desire for her mother's acknowledgement of her looks and brains, and her mother's response: "Mrs. Adler takes Bonnie in her arms and calls her meine Schonheit, my beauty, in German. Mommy only greets me with a hello and a smile, no hug and no words of endearment" Her mother answers, "Do you want me to call you meine Schonheit? Bonnie's mother makes a fool of herself." A sensible answer, but teenaged girls have never been known for responding to sense. The story is told in short, beautifully written chapters, which is probably a good idea, allowing the reader to stop and catch his/her breath before resuming. By the time Elli and her mother are liberated, Elli is 14, but she looks 60, and feels as if she has indeed "lived a thousand years." Recommended for mature teens, and anyone interested inchronicles of the Holocaust. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1997, Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, 234p, 18cm, 96-19971, $4.99. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Judith H. Silverman; Chevy Chase, MD, September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 UpIn 1944, Elli Friedmann, a 13-year-old Hungarian Jew, is deported with her family to Auschwitz. Her blonde braids and tall stature save her from instant death in the crematorium. During the following year, Elli and her mother survive terrible suffering and injustice through sheer courage, perseverance, and ingenuity. The teen matures from a naive child concerned with boys and bicycles to a toughened, traumatizedyet still hopefulyoung woman. This is a chilling account of concentration camps and humankind's capacity for inhumanity. The horrors are not prettified or watered down and are appropriately nightmarish. Unfortunately, the book has two flaws. First, Bitton-Jackson tells her story in the present tense, or tries to; but the voice is inconsistent, and the results are awkward and, at times, confusing. Second, not all the segments are complete. For instance, early in Auschwitz, Elli sees blood running down the legs of a menstruating woman and wonders how she'll feel when her period arrives; but nothing else is mentioned on the subject. The author's adult book, Elli: Coming of Age in the Holocaust (Times, 1980; o.p.)from which this book is adaptedprovides the answers to this and other questions. Despite these drawbacks, I Have Lived a Thousand Years is a gripping story that teaches important lessons. It will be a valuable addition to any Holocaust collection.Ann W. Moore, Schenectady County Public Library, NY

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Product Details

Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 5.20(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Livia Bitton-Jackson, born Elli L. Friedmann in Czechoslovakia, was thirteen when she, her mother, and her brother were taken to Auschwitz. They were liberated in 1945 and came to the United States on a refugee boat in 1951. She received a PhD in Hebrew culture and Jewish history from New York University. Dr. Bitton-Jackson has been a professor of history at City University of New York for thirty-seven years. Her previous books include Elli: Coming of Age in the Holocaust, which received the Christopher Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award, and the Jewish Heritage Award. Dr. Bitton-Jackson lives in Israel with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

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