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In Our Hearts We Were Giants: The Remarkable Story of the Lilliput Troupe-A Dwarf Family's Survival of the Holocaust

Overview

This remarkable, never-before-told account of the Ovitz family -- seven of whose ten members were dwarfs -- bears witness to the best and worst of humanity and to the terrible irony of the Ovitzes' fate: being burdened with dwarfism helped them endure the Holocaust. Through dogged research and interviews with Perla, the youngest Ovitz daughter and last surviving sibling, and other witnesses, Israeli authors Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev weave the tale of a beloved and successful family of performers who were ...
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In Our Hearts We Were Giants: The Remarkable Story of the Lilliput Troupe--A Dwarf Family's Survival of the Holocaust

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Overview

This remarkable, never-before-told account of the Ovitz family -- seven of whose ten members were dwarfs -- bears witness to the best and worst of humanity and to the terrible irony of the Ovitzes' fate: being burdened with dwarfism helped them endure the Holocaust. Through dogged research and interviews with Perla, the youngest Ovitz daughter and last surviving sibling, and other witnesses, Israeli authors Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev weave the tale of a beloved and successful family of performers who were popular entertainers in Central Europe until the Nazis deported them to Auschwitz in May 1944. Descending into the hell of the concentration camp from the transport train, the Ovitz family -- known widely as the Lilliput Troupe -- was separated from other Jewish inmates. When Dr. Josef Mengele learned of their arrival, he assigned them to sequestered quarters. Already embarked on his horrific "research" on twins and other genetically unique individuals, Mengele developed special plans for the Ovitzes. The authors chronicle Mengele's loathsome experiments upon the family members, the disturbing fondness he developed for these small people, the songs he sang to them, and their determination to make it out of Auschwitz alive. Perla explains the irony of their survival this way: "If I ever wondered why I was born a dwarf, my answer would have to be that my handicap ... was God's only way to keep me alive." Finally liberated by Russian troops, the family returned to their deserted village in Transylvania, and eventually found their way to a new home and renewed success as performers in Israel. A powerful testament to the human spirit -- and a hitherto untold tale in Holocaust literature -- In Our Hearts We Were Giants is a triumphant and unforgettable saga.
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Editorial Reviews

Istvan Deak
"Amazing story sympathetically and eloquently told"
Professor, the New York Review of Books
Publishers Weekly
When the last of his 10 children was born in 1921, Shimshon Eizik Ovitz had the distinction of having fathered the largest dwarf family in the world. Twenty-four years later, his seven dwarf children, two of their normal-sized siblings and a handful of their spouses and cousins set a more tragic record as one of only two extended families to survive Auschwitz intact. The same physical characteristics that frequently rendered them helpless made them endlessly appealing to the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele, who tormented them in the name of genetic research. The Ovitz family history is fascinating, as is the dwarf lore that Israeli journalists Koren and Negev have unearthed, but the real drama-aside from the horror of the Holocaust-is in the relationships the Ovitzes formed with Mengele as well as with one another, their spouses, extended family and with the Slomowitzes, fellow townspeople who pretended to be relatives so that they, too, would be spared. Much of the family history comes from the last surviving Ovitz daughter, Perla, who died in 2001, and her nephew, Shimshon, who was a toddler in Auschwitz. Perla is a compelling blend of pride and misery, her nephew a sorrowful adult whose difficult childhood was followed by a troubled adolescence. Their stories, and those of their family, are unique and unforgettable. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. Agent, Erika Stegmann. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The true story of seven dwarves, a family of performers who survived the Holocaust. The Ovitzes were one of only two families whose members all returned from Auschwitz, and to call that remarkable hardly does justice to their saga, related by Israeli journalists Koren and Negev in a number of different tones. It starts with the musicality of a fairy tale, recounting the life of Shimshon Eizik Ovitz, a dwarf born in 1868 to Jewish parents in Transylvania. Shimshon became a Badchan: "a merrymaker, a colorful, virtually indispensable figure at wedding festivals," the authors explain, purveyor of "drollery, riddles, and anecdotes." Of his ten children from two wives, seven were dwarves. Nine of them joined together in a vaudeville act called the Lilliput Troupe, expanding on their father's repertoire to include love songs and local hits, broad jokes and comic scenes. In 1944 the family was shipped to Auschwitz. The narrative's tone takes an emotional nosedive as the authors chronicle month by month the Ovitzes' experiences in the camp, where they were taken under Dr. Josef Mengele's protective wing (an oxymoronic phrase if ever there was one). Mengele considered the Ovitzes a eugenic gold mine: "Their desirability lay in their number and in their anomaly as an entire family." They were abused and degraded, but they were also housed in one of the "family camps," showcases for the Red Cross. They surrendered buckets of blood to Mengele, but each and every one survived, and here the story takes a more upbeat tone. After returning to an unfriendly Hungary, the Ovitzes traveled together, ultimately to Israel, where they resumed their careers and made a success despite the Yiddish character oftheir act "in a land where Yiddish was frowned upon, where the old culture was scorned and the folk traditions banished." They were survivors all over again. Horrifying yet mesmerizing: the authors never overplay a potentially melodramatic hand, and no reader will fail to admire the Ovitzes. (16 pp. b&w photos, not seen)Agent: Alison Bond
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786713653
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 6/9/2004
  • Pages: 305
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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