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Recounts the experiences of the author who, as a young Polish girl, hid and saved Jews during the Holocaust.
Recounts the experiences of the author who, as a young Polish girl, hid and saved Jews during the Holocaust.
I would need a key. The street entrance of the hotel was not guarded, and was well out of sight of the guardhouse at the main gate. But the door was always locked at night, for fear of sabotage or murder by the locals, I suppose, or of unauthorized late-night rendezvous. All through dinner preparations I tried to think of ways to get the major's keys, trying out first one then another story to explain why I needed them. In the end, I decided simply to steal the keys.
Every one of staff was still suffering from the effects of their party the night before. The dining room was quiet during dinner. Voices were subdued, and barely a laugh rose above the sullen murmur. People tried to handle their forks and knives carefully to avoid clattering, and many officers and secretaries excused themselves early. There was little billiard playing or after-dinner drinking.
I went to the major's table, where he sat alone, nursing a glass of wine and looking down at his uneaten dinner.
"Can I get you anything, Herr Major?" I asked.
He looked up at me, his glasses catching the light in such a way as to obscure his eyes; he regarded me with a round, blank stare.
"I think perhaps I will take a glass of warm milk with me to bed, Irene. And I'll take something to help me sleep. This has been a terrible day."
I tried to keep the excitement out of my voice as I began clearing his dishes. "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, Herr Major. I'll be happy to bring some milk to your room right away."
He pushed himself away from the table. "Good. And tomorrow I will send some men to paint inside the house. If you could just watch over them, see that they do the job properly . . ."
I practically hauled him to his feet and shoved him out of the dining room, so anxious was I to see him in bed and unconscious. At the bottom of the staircase I left him and ran to the kitchen to heat the milk, and in five minutes I was knocking on his door.
Major R¸gemer took the glass from the little tray and put a small white pill on his tongue. While he gulped down the milk I glanced at his dressing table. His keys were there.
"Sleep well, Herr Major," I said as he turned away.
"Hmm? What's that?"
I smiled and raised my voice. "Good night, Herr Major!"
I left the door slightly ajar and hurried back downstairs. Now, for the second night in a row, I had to keep my vigil, waiting for the hotel to fall asleep. I sat on the edge of my bed, not daring to lie down while I waited, for in spite of my state of nervous anxiety, I was as weary as if I'd been juggling bricks all day. So I sat, staring out my open door into the hallway, listening to the sounds that came further and further apart. At last, the place was still. I kicked my shoes off and tiptoed up to the third floor.
At the door to the major's bedroom I stopped to listen; from within came a labored snoring. I remembered the sensation of waiting in the wings offstage in high school, then taking a deep breath and walking out into the lights. There was the same fluttering in my stomach, the same twitch of muscles between my shoulder blades as I straightened my back. And so, I took a deep breath and went in.
The light from the hallway slanted in across the room and illuminated the dressing table. I gave a quick glance to the bed, which was in shadow. The major snored on. I closed my hand over the bulky set of keys to keep them from jingling, and then backed out, locking the door behind me. I don't know what I was thinking, for if the major had woken and tried to leave his room, he would have raised a commotion. But I could not have him walk into the bathroom until I'd gotten my friends.
They were stiff, cramped, and tired. One at a time they lowered themselves from the air duct and stood rubbing their aching muscles. Fanka swung her arms in circles to get the blood moving, and Steiner's back let out a crack as he stretched himself.
"Let's hurry," I said, opening the door to peek out. I waved them after me, and we went single file and down the staircase as fast as their stiff legs would allow. They stood behind me, watching anxiously, while I found the right key from the ring in my hands; then I had the street door open, and they were stepping out into the fresh night air.
"You know the address," I whispered. "Go through the coal chute on the left side of the house and wait for me in the basement. I'll be over first thing in the morning. Go! Stay in the shadows, and God bless you."
In a moment, they had disappeared into the darkness. I locked the door again, returned the keys to the major's room, and then threw myself onto my own bed, telling myself that they would make it. I did not allow myself to imagine otherwise.
Before I fell asleep, I felt a surge of triumph: Rokita thought Ternopol was judenrein tonight, that his Aktions had rid the city of Jews once and for all. But I had taken action myself. There were at least six Jews left in town. As long as I could help it, Ternopol would never be judenrein.
The instant I was able to get away after breakfast, I walked to the villa as quickly as I could — quickly enough to put a stitch in my side and to break a sweat in the heat. I unlocked the door and burst inside, dreading the sound of planters bumping ladders against the furniture. But it was silent. I was in
time — assuming that my friends were indeed waiting in the basement. The smell of cabbage and potatoes lingered in the air.
Almost fearing what I might find, I opened the basement door and clattered down the stairs, my shoes making a racket on the wooded steps. "Hoo-ee! It's Irene!" I called out.
The first room was empty. Trying not to worry, I opened the door to the furnace room, praying to find my six friends — and Henry Weinbaum. The door creaked as it swung open into the gloom, and I called out again.
There was an almost audible sigh of relief. One by one, figures merged from the shadows: Ida, Lazar, Clara, Thomas, Fanka, Moses Steiner, and a young, handsome fellow I took to be Henry Weinbaum. I shook hands with them all silently, suddenly overcome with emotion. They were all there; they were safe and alive. And, to my surprise, I found three strangers, who greeted me with an odd mixture of sheepishness and defiance.
"I'm Joseph Weiss," the eldest of the three said. "And this is Marian Wilner and Alex Rosen. Henry told us."
For a moment I was at a loss. I had ten lives in my hands now! But there wasn't time for lengthy introductions. The soldiers from the plant were due any minute to start painting.
"Hurry, everyone," I said. "You'll have to stay in the attic until the house is painted. I'll check on you as often as I can. I don't need to tell you not to make any noise at all."
This was met with grim nods all around. Then we made our way upstairs. The attic was musty; dust swirled in a shaft of light from the high window, and the air smelled of mouse droppings. "Shoes off," I said. "Don't walk around unless you absolutely must."
I locked them in just as trucks ground to a halt out on the street.
|Part 1||I Was Almost Fast Enough||3|
|Part 2||Finding Wings||69|
|Part 3||Where Could I Come to Rest?||207|
|Polish: A Rough Guide to Pronunciation||239|
|German: A Rough Guide to Pronunciation||241|
|Some Historical Background||243|
|A Note on the Writing of This Book||247|
The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of In My Hands, written by Irene Gut Opdyke with Jennifer Armstrong. This awe-inspiring memoir of a young Polish girl who became a Holocaust rescuer—responsible for saving twelve Jews—portrays with stunning vividness the triumph of a real-life heroine over the grossest of human atrocities.
1. In the first pages of the memoir we are introduced to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa at the shrine of Jasna Gora, and Irene recounts that she prayed to God to get her through particularly difficult or lonely times. What role does religion play in Irene's story? Does religion sustain her or fail her in her times of need? As she watches the last trucks full of Jews drive away from the Ternopol ghetto she says, "I tried to pray, but the words in my head did not fit together in the right order. I wanted to say 'Holy Father,' but I could not. I thought He must have gone far away, taking His name with Him" [p. 147]. Does her faith waiver at other times? How do the different clergymen that Irene encounters strengthen or weaken her resolve?
2. Irene's father assures Irene during their brief reunion by telling her, "God has plans for you. He did not let you die" [p. 74]. Yet later, Irene explains, "You must understand that I did not become a resistance fighter, a smuggler of Jews, a defier of the SS and the Nazis, all at once. One's first steps are always small: I had begun by hiding food under a fence" [p. 126]. And, finally, in her epilogue she tells us, "Yes, it was me, a girl, with nothing but my free will clutched in my hand like an amber bead. God gave me this free will for my treasure. I can say this now. I understand this now. The war was a series of choices made by many people" [p. 234]. Were Irene's actions predestined or the result of her free will? How is free will an important theme in understanding the Holocaust overall?
3. How much of Irene's success is based on sheer luck and how much on quick thinking? Forexample, she easily escapes the Russian commissar [p. 63], she finds the vent in the major's bathroom to hide the Jews before moving them to the major's villa [p. 150], and she escapes through the prison window in Krakow [p. 224].
4. From the first chapter when we meet Bociek, the stork that Irene and her sisters care for, different images of birds permeate Irene's memoir. References to birds or bird images appear at least seven more times in the memoir in different contexts [pp. 68, 80, 104, 133, 142, 215, 234]. How are these images symbolic of Irene? What else do the birds represent? What is the significance of the moments in Irene's story when bird imagery is used? How does the bird motif characterize the style Jennifer Armstrong uses in telling Irene's story?
5. Irene tells us, "Sometimes, when I thought of the amount of hatred dwelling in Poland, I was surprised to see that the grass was still green, that the trees still flourished their leaves against a blue sky. . . . The birds can hop from one branch to another, tipping their heads and honing their small beaks against the bark while a child dies in the mud below" [pp. 99<ETH>100]. How is nature portrayed in In My Hands? How does Irene perceive man's relationship with nature and the land during the war? How is the land of Poland simultaneously a force for man to reckon with, as in the cruel cold of Polish winters, and a symbol of hope, as in the flowers of Poland heralding the arrival of spring?
6. So many questions remain at the end of the memoir, and the pictorials raise questions about Irene's life after Poland: What was her courtship and marriage like? What were her sisters' lives like after the war? Did she ever communicate with Eduard R?gemer again? Why did her sisters and her Jewish friends decide to remain in Europe? Why does the author choose to end Irene's memoir where she does and leave these and other questions unanswered?
7. In significant passages, Irene recalls the manifestation of German anti-Semitism in Poland. She writes of her home town: And in some shops not many, but some there were signs saying, "Don't Buy from Jews!" or "A Poland Free from Jews Is a Free Poland." This mystified me. In my home, there had never been any distinction made between people. . . . We did not imagine where it would lead. How could we? To us, Germany had always been a seat of civilization, the home of poets and musicians, philosophers and scientists. We believed it was a rational, cultured country. How could we know that the Germans did not feel the same about us? How could we know the depth of their scorn for us? Despite our centuries of glorious achievements, despite our Chopins and our Copernicuses, our cathedrals and our heroes and our horses—despite all this, Germany viewed Poland as a land of Slavic brutes, fit only for labor. And so Hitler wanted to destroy us [pp. 17<ETH>18].
It was now impossible not to understand what Hitler's plans for the Jews were. . . . Janina and I would recall Jewish friends from our girlhood. . . . It seemed to us . . . that if our childhood friends could be considered enemies, what was to keep us from the same fate? Weren't we all the same? Hitler would finish the Jews, ghetto by ghetto, and then turn his full attention to the rest of us Poles [p. 98].
In both of these passages, Irene begins by discussing anti-Semitic acts and ends with fear of what such German behavior might mean to Poland and the Poles. From Irene's point of view, how did these anti-Semitic actions and sentiments differ from anti-Polish actions and sentiments?
8. Except for the incidental German women echoing the anti-Semitism of their Nazi soldier boyfriends, all of the perpetrators of evil in Irene's wartime experience are men. How are Irene's actions made possible by the fact that she is a woman? How might a man read her memoirs differently than a woman?
9. In Irene's memoirs she juxtaposes the major's decentness against Rokita's iciness [pp. 134<ETH>135]. Yet, after he elicits sex from her in exchange for protecting her secret she reflects, "I wondered how the major's honor would allow him to make such a bargain. I had always felt that behind the uniform was a decent man. I had never seen him do anything cruel or rash. . . ." [p. 191]. Is the major a sympathetic person? What are Irene's feelings toward Major R?gemer? Are the major's actions toward Irene"justified," or is Irene rationalizing? While Irene had clearly realized his feelings for her before this fateful moment and, more and more, had exploited them [pp. 113, 123, 142, 164], was the major's demand in fact inevitable?
10. Equally complex is Irene's opinion of the average German, as epitomized by Herr Schulz. On one hand, he is a "good, friendly man" and "had none of the ferocity and malevolence that [Irene] had come to expect of the Germans" [p. 88]. But she also admits, "As good and kind as he was, he was a German, and I could not reconcile those two things in my mind" [p. 93], and "He made hating the Germans a complex matter, when it should have been such a straightforward one" [p. 119]. Is Herr Schulz's behavior understandable? Excusable?
11. Is it possible that Dr. David and Dr. Miriam are Jewish, as their names would indicate? Was the "Rachel Meyer," whom Irene poses as in Kiev, supposed to be Jewish? If so, why would Irene not explicitly note this irony? After the war, when Irene is in the repatriation camp posing as a Jew, she notes twice, "I fooled myself that I belonged" [p. 231]. And, after three years, the village still "did not feel like home" [p. 232]. Why might Irene have felt this way?
1. When Germany invades Poland, Irene is separated from her family and loses her country. She says, “In the war, everything was unnatural and unreal. . . .” What is life like during wartime? How does Irene react to her new circumstances? How does she manage to adapt to the new reality that is thrust upon her?
2. Irene asks “Was that girl me? In the war . . . we wore masks and spoke lines that were not our own.” Discuss the different masks that Irene wears during the war. How much do you think her flair for acting contributes to her survival? What role does she finally define for herself?
3. “I did not ask myself, Should I do this? But, How will I do this? Every step of my childhood had brought me to this cross-road; I must take the right path, or I would no longer be myself.” How does Irene grow into her role as a rescuer? What is her first small step? How does she gradually increase the risks she takes? What skills does she acquire that help her succeed? How does her telling her story now relate to her resistance during the war?
4. “How could I presume to be their savior? And yet I had promised. I had to do it.” What motivates Irene to take such incredible risks? Is it her religious belief? Her upbringing? Her anger at the cruelty all around her? Does she truly consider the alternatives–does she think it possible not to help?
5. Throughout the war, and for many years after, Irene is separated from her family—first by circumstance, but later as a direct result of having helped her friends. When does this separation weigh on her the most heavily? In what ways do the people whom she has helped become her family? Many years after the war, Irene meets Roman Haller–the child of two of the people she hid. How might he be considered a closer relative than her own nieces and nephews?
6. Discuss how being female affects Irene throughout the war. She often refers to herself as “only a girl.” For example: “I was only a girl, alone among the enemy. What could I do?” Yet a page later she says, “I was only a girl, nobody paid much attention to me.” What are some other advantages and disadvantages of her being “only a girl”? How do you think she views this status in the end?
7. Early in the story, Irene is raped, beaten, and left for dead by Russian soldiers. How does this change her feelings about herself? Her feelings about men?
8. Later in the story, Major Rügemer agrees that he will not turn the Jews hidden in his basement over to the Gestapo if Irene will become his mistress. She describes this relationship as “worse than rape.” In what ways is it worse? Does she believe she has any choice? What does she imagine the people she is hiding would want her to do?
9. 1.Irene often contrasts the major’s decent behavior with Rokita’s cruelty. But after the major forces her into a sexual relationship, she feels confused. “I wondered how the major’s honor would allow him to make such a bargain. I had always felt that behind the uniform was a decent man. I had never seen him do anything cruel or rash. . . .” Does Irene realize the full extent of the major’s feelings for her? How does she use his affection to her advantage? Is his eventual exploitation of her inevitable, as she implies?
10. What are Major Rügemer’s feelings for Irene? He both protects her and does her harm–how would you assess his behavior as a whole? Why does he take Irene to visit her “cousin”? When he leaves Irene alone at the hotel, do you think he knows that she will run from him? Do you find his actions forgivable? Is it possible to feel sympathy for him? Does Irene forgive him? What happens to him at the end of the war?
11. How would you contrast the major’s behavior with that of Herr Schulz? Irene calls him a “good, friendly man” and admits “he made hating the Germans a complex matter, when it should have been such a straightforward one.” Why does Irene suspect that he knows what she is doing? How much is he willing to help? Is Herr Schulz’s behavior understandable? Excusable? Laudable?
12. Irene faces the threats of torture and imprisonment in Siberia. She is raped by a Russian soldier, blackmailed by a German officer, and separated for years from her family. She knows that the fate of her Jewish friends is in her hands. What does she risk to help? What is her biggest sacrifice?
13. When the Jews whom Irene has been hiding escape into the forest, she is unsure what to do next. She explains: “Shouldn’t I have been happy? But I was oddly dejected, because my great and righteous undertaking was finished.” Then, on the very next page, she says she has found her calling. She throws herself into fighting for Poland by joining the resistance. After the war, does she continue her efforts? If so, how?
14. Irene often goes to church and confession. Does religion sustain her or fail her in her times of need? Discuss the different clergymen she encounters. How does she cope with their conflicting advice and admonitions?
15. Does Irene’s faith ever waver? Does she question God? At what point in the story? She ends her memoir with the words “Go with God.” How does she hold on to her belief in God when she has witnessed so much suffering and cruelty?
16. The book is framed by the sections “Tears” and “Amber.” How are these two pieces related? How do they reflect Irene’s growth from the beginning of the war to the end? How has the meaning of amber shifted by the end of the memoir?
17. Irene often says that she had no choice but to act as she did and that God put her in the right place to act. But in her epilogue she tells us, “God gave me this free will for my treasure. I can say this now. I understand this now. The war was a series of choices made by many people.” Were Irene’s actions predestined or the result of her free will? How is free will an important idea in understanding the Holocaust?
18. Images of birds permeate Irene’s memoir. Discuss what all these different birds might mean. Sparrows, hens, storks, pigeons . . . do any of these symbolize Irene? What else do the birds represent?
19. On the very first page of Irene’s story, an image of a bird represents a horrible scene she witnessed during the war: “There was a bird flushed up from the wheat fields, disappearing in a blur of wings against the sun, and then a gunshot and it fell to the earth. But it was not a bird. It was not a bird, and it was not in the wheat field, but you can’t understand what it was yet.” What does she need to make the reader understand? Why do you think she begins and ends her story with a reference to this incident?
20. The real scene represented by this image is one of the most indelible in the book: a soldier viciously throws a baby into the air and shoots it. The people Irene is with when she sees this happen turn away from the horror, but Irene continues to look. Why does she watch?
21. Irene and her companions do not discuss what they have seen, but keep the secret until they “could bring it out, and show it to others, and say, ‘Behold. This is the worst thing man can do.’” How does Irene “show it to others” and what does she hope to accomplish by doing so?
Posted September 30, 2010
The book In My Hands: Memoires of a Holocaust Rescuer, tells the inspiring tale of a young Polish girl, Irene Gut, and how she became a Holocaust rescuer. Irene was a seventeen-year-old, Catholic girl living in Poland at the time of Hitler's invasion in 1939. As the war progressed, Irene's family, country and life apart began to be torn apart Through small actions at first, Irene strived to help the Jews. She began with simply smuggling food to the Jews in the neighboring ghetto. Irene's impact quickly turned into much more when she ultimately risked her own life in order to save the lives of 16 other Jews. This book displayed the horrors of World War II, but also the compassion of people during the war. Through the vividly described events and scenes, the reader is drawn in and allowed to feel the emotions that could only be felt, not seen. Her tale gives realism to the Holocaust that I had never experienced before. Overall, I completely adored this book. I could hardly put it down! There was not a single part that I disliked or would change. The plot is constantly thickening and always throwing new obstacles in the way of Irene. Her story is an inspiration to all those that read it and carries strong themes of patriotism and courage. Despite her young age or how bad circumstances looked, Irene never gave up on herself or her country. Her courage is an example of how everyone can do something, despite how small, to change the world. Although this novel is categorized as young adult, I would encourage people of all ages to read it. There is a lesson to learn by everyone within these pages. Overall I would give this book a 5 out of 5 star rating. Other recommended readings similar to this book would include The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas by John Boyne and The Diary of Anne Frank.
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 12, 2011
This is an amazing story of how one young woman overcame so many hurdles to keep herself alive all the while saving the lives of others.
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Posted November 29, 2008
I read this book when I begin to be interested in World War II and this close, personal story puts you there in the action. It is unforgivingly real and true to this woman's story and life. If you have read Anne Frank, you will want to read this more mature, yet heart-breakingly similiar memoir of life in the face of absolute hatred.
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Posted November 6, 2010
I could not put this one down. Highly recommend. It takes a look at WWII from the perspective of a young Polish girl and her journey through the war years.
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Posted February 27, 2010
I have read many books and have a long list of favorites but this book will be in the top 5 and Irene's story will stay with me forever. I read this book in 3 days and when I was not reading it I was thinking about it and what it must have been like to live during WWII and the Holocaust. I tried to picture myself walking in Irene's shoes or being one of the Jews that was sent to a camp or being a German who had Jewish neighbors. How would I have handled it all? How would I have acted? Would I have been brave and stong like Irene or would I have been scrared and looked away? I highly recommend this book. It is a wonderful and good story of a beautiful, stong and caring person & I wish I could have known Irene.
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Posted May 28, 2013
Imagine living with the image in your mind everyday of seeing an infant whipped into the air and shot. Imagine witnessing struggling,
famished laborers being worked to death before your very eyes. While all this is going on, imagine you are working in a kitchen, feeding
officers large feasts for every meal and watch them waste tons of food while there are young children just a mile away starving. All you can
do is stand and watch. If you try to interfere, you are sentenced to imminent death.
The autobiography In My Hands tell the horrible life story of Irene Gut Opdyke as a Holocaust rescuer. That is exactly how her life
was. She was surrounded by horror and agony, and she was told she could do nothing. In her autobiography, she tells about escaping
from the Red Army, being taken prisoner and forced to work for the Nazis party, escaping and working with the Polish resistance and all
throughout her journey, rescuing many Jewish prisoners escape to freedom. Throughout the book, you are following her emotional
roller-coaster. One minute she is free and happy living with her sisters and family and the next, her family is ripped away from her, and
they are forced to work in caves and her living conditions are horrible.
I found this book to be eye opening, inspirational, interesting, and all around an amazing read. It ties in aspects of action, drama,
war, struggle, history, triumph, and selflessness. This book is perfect for those who have a passion for the Holocaust and World War II,
but also people who like books about rebellion, and it is overall a great book to teach people to do what is right, even though the
consequences may be alarming and dangerous. That is what Irene did. She knew it was extraordinarily dangerous to help Jewish
prisoners but she did it anyway. She went against the law, risking her life, just to save the lives of innocent people.
This book is a bit graphic so it might not be the best idea to read for young people, but is perfect for anyone around the age of a high
schooler or older. It is a wonderful life lesson for all groups of people and it is important to learn about the past and learn lessons from
the tragedies of the past and this is a wonderful and truly beneficial book to anyone who reads.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 7, 2013
Posted August 1, 2013
Posted May 28, 2013
The book In My hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut is an inspirational book to many readers. This book takes place during the era of the Holocaust. Irene
is a 17 year old girl, and her country is split between two nations: Germany and Russia. Irene is now on the run for survival. in some
situations she can pass for a Russian with her blonde hair and blue eyes and in others, trouble is calling her name. Irene faced a lot of
situations in her book that make you thankful for our world today. Ms. Gut never gives up on her country or on her family throughout the
book. She struggles throughout the Holocaust trying to help Jews escape the wrath of Adolf Hitler, and there may be a couple of loops she has to jump through to get to the other side, but never does she quit , never does she stop hoping that one day things will be okay for her family and her country. Throughout this book there is a lot of suspense that builds up because you keep wondering what will happen next.
Posted May 15, 2013
Posted December 31, 2012
Beautiful story from outside of the concentration and death camps. An inspiration to everyone - I can only hope that I would be as loving, brave, and selfless as Irene if push came to shove. We should all hope to be like her.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 13, 2012
Posted September 12, 2012
A thrilling and unique read that I loved every minute of. I had a very hard time putting this book down. This true story is about a young woman, Irene, who starts out as a nurse in Poland at the beginning of World War II. As the war progresses, she is separated from her family, and took to other countries to work in hospitals. Eventually she gets away from her nursing job, and gets a job as a waitress serving food to German officers. The dining hall is right across the street from the Ghetto, where hundreds of Jews are being held. Irene overhears the German officers’ conversations about the war, and what they are going to do with the Jews in the Ghetto. Irene’s mindset is completely opposite of keeping herself safe and letting the Jews be killed. With bravery and perseverance, Irene figures out a way to hide seven Jews and keep them from being killed in the Ghetto. How she gets them out and where she hides them next is for you to find out by reading this book. I would strongly recommend this memoir because he suspense level is off the charts. Irene goes through several life threatening situations that most people don’t even go through once in their lifetime. This type of excitement is extremely fun and entertaining to read. I would also recommend this book because you can learn a ton about what life was like in Europe during World War II. You can also learn that sitting back and keeping yourself safe is the wrong thing to do. You need to go out, take chances, and try to change something. Irene Gut Opdyke single handedly changed the course of history by doing this. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I have a single dislike about this book. I enjoyed reading every page. I would strongly recommend this remarkable memoir to anyone. -Jordan HarnumWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 10, 2012
It was heartbreaking yet perspective changing. The novel discusses Irene’s journey and experiences throughout and of the holocaust. She provides insight into how it affected her as a Polish native instead of a Jew and how it led to her hiding, protecting, and trying to save Jews. Major themes include suspense with her escapes, survival in many different places, love of people and wanting what’s best for them, and selflessness as she sacrificed her life to do the right thing by saving people and putting others first. All these themes contribute to major overall messages of what is right verses what is easy, and finding good among what seems to be all bad. The things I liked most were that the author, Irene, wasn’t afraid to provide vivid detail in tragic situations even though the recollections may have been difficult she wanted the reader to feel every amount of emotion possible. Also I liked how there was a happy ending and she didn’t leave any loose ends; she resolved and explained everything in the end. People should read this novel because it provides a closer look into someone’s perspective of what it was like to help Jews during the holocaust and being faced with the responsibility of having people’s lives in your hands.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 9, 2012
Great read about how Poland was during World War II!
In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer was one of the most eye opening books that I have read in a while. This story tells about a 17 year old Polish girl who survived World War II. She survived the war hearing about her country having no more military, getting abused by the Russians, running away from them only to get captured by the Germans who tried to work her to death and loss of a fiancé. All throughout her travels Irene helped people by giving first aid when they’re were sick, smuggling food to Jews in a ghetto or trying to save 12 Jews and keep them safe during the war. This book had many messages and themes that I noticed while reading this book. The two biggest are never give up and help people whenever you can. Throughout Irene’s story she never gave up and helped everyone who needed it. She proved that no matter who you are and where you live people need to help others for the sake of humanity and to do that you should never give up and continue fighting no matter how much you don’t want to! I liked how this book was written, as if the reader was there watching over Irene’s back; when she was doing the acts of smuggling food and people or just running away from the Russians who would hurt her. I felt the same feelings which Irene felt like the stress of keeping a deadly secret and the fear of getting caught. I didn’t like how there were no details of how Poland looked after the war and how the people felt. It left me with many questions of what happened after the war and how was Poland going to move on after what just happened to it and its people. I think this book should be read by everyone because it is such an eye opening book which tells about a different side of World War II which many people don’t really know about. In addition it is written in a way that makes the reader feel like they are part of Irene’s story. I would also like to recommend Night by Elie Wiesel because it is another account of the Holocaust and about the people who were in it. Overall I would rate this book 5 out of 5 stars because this book was just mindboggling.
Posted September 9, 2012
In My Hands is an inspiring, brave, and haunting story of a young girl, Irene Gut, and her courageous actions during the Holocaust. The book goes throughout the course of the war and Irene leads a life separated from her family while the plot is constantly changing and thickening, sometimes better and sometimes worse. Irene is constantly helping people, especially the Jews wherever she goes. She does anything from hiding small amounts of food in a box and sliding it under a fence all the way up to hiding 12 Jews in the house of a German general. The entire book demonstrates selfless acts and extreme courage in doing what’s right. At one point Irene states that she would rather die for a sheep instead of a lamb, everything she does is to impact more and do the most she can. The main message of her life is clearly to help people and help them as much as possible. It displays such great characteristics and in such a grabbing story. It gets started with action and suspension very quickly in the book and is packed with it for the most part. There is constant feel of excitement and terror with every action she does which makes the book impossible to put down. The only time the book lacks in this is toward the end, after the war has ended. There is a major shift in the book in the tone and mood. There is a feeling of rushing through events without detail and almost trying to finish it off as quickly as possible. I lost a lot of interest in the book at this point because of the tone and blur throughout the events leading to the end. But overall, this is an inspirational and incredible life to hear about and i adored it. I would suggest this book to anybody and everybody whether they are interested in the Holocaust or not. It was a truly life changing and memorable book which causes you to really appreciate the country you live in now.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 7, 2012
This book was a sensational read, I am not too fond of reading but this book pulled me in and i was interested from the first to last page. The story line is extremely eventful and is played out miraculously! Irene Gut (The main character) goes through the most tragic time of her life during the Holocaust. The author and Irene teach you that not only Jews were affected by Hitler. That time was tremendously painful for many innocent, helpless families and Irene’s story shows you how her family made it through the years and fought without giving up. I really liked how the book was planned out, the events made sense and having one of the Authors be who the story is about, really helps because it is her own words. There is nothing I can think of that I didn’t like this book. The message In My Hands sent me was that The Holocaust and other wars/tragedies like that are extremely devastating and make me a lot more thankful for my life. This book also taught me that all kinds of religions were affected n the Holocaust. Again, it was very eye opening and interesting to read. Because I am Jewish and my family is from Poland, it was very easy to relate to this book. I really feel for Irene and her family and because of this book I feel even more aware and thankful of what I have in my life and the religion I am blessed with. People of all ages should read this book because of how eye opening and interesting it is. It would touch anyone’s heart and really show you how awful the Holocaust really was. My overall rating of this book is definitely 5 stars. It kept me interested the whole time, it never had a dull moment. This book made me feel a lot more connected to my religion and really made me feel for the poor people effected by the Holocaust. I would seriously consider reading In My Hands.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 6, 2012
This book was inspirational! Irene Gut was separated from her family when Germany and Russia took over Poland, faced hardships, found her family, was separated from all but her oldest sister, and then started her real mission. What started as throwing some bread into a Jewish Ghetto, quickly escalated to risking her life to save 16 Jews. I could not put this book down! It was amazing to see how one person could do so much. 5 out of 5! I recommend The Boy in Striped Pajamas and My Brothers Voice as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 6, 2012
Posted July 9, 2012