The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood

The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood

4.8 17
by Mark Kurzem
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The 'spellbinding' (The New York Times) true story of a Jewish boy who became the darling of the Nazis

When a Nazi death squad massacred his mother and fellow villagers, five-year-old Alex Kurzem escaped, hiding in the freezing Russian forest until he was picked up by a group of Latvian SS soldiers. Alex was able to hide his Jewish identity and win

Overview

The 'spellbinding' (The New York Times) true story of a Jewish boy who became the darling of the Nazis

When a Nazi death squad massacred his mother and fellow villagers, five-year-old Alex Kurzem escaped, hiding in the freezing Russian forest until he was picked up by a group of Latvian SS soldiers. Alex was able to hide his Jewish identity and win over the soldiers, becoming their mascot and an honorary 'corporal' in the SS with his own uniform. But what began as a desperate bid for survival became a performance that delighted the highest ranks of the Nazi elite. And so a young Jewish boy ended up starring in a Nazi propaganda film.

After sixty-three years of silence, Alex revealed his terrible secret to his son Mark. With his son's help, Alex retraced his past in search of answers and vindication. His story is at once a terrifying account of survival and its psychological cost as well as a brutally honest examination of identity, complicity, and memory.

Editorial Reviews

Dinitia Smith
It could be a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm. But The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood, by the Australian writer Mark Kurzem, is a true story. Part mystery, part memory puzzle, it is written in the polished style of a good thriller, and it is spellbinding.
—The New York Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Jaw-dropping...powerful subject matter.
Library Journal

Kurzem's first book is part of a genre whereby the children of Holocaust survivors recount their parents' experiences by recounting their own investigations. The actual Holocaust experience, told through oral history and/or documentary evidence, is juxtaposed to the children's process of investigation. The author's father, Alex Kurzem, certainly has an interesting story. A young Jewish boy survives the massacre of his family and is adopted by members of the Latvian SS as a "mascot"; after the war, many of his memories, including his Jewish past, are suppressed for years. His son's discovery of documents, photographs, and even his father's role in a Nazi propaganda film are quite compelling. The text, however, contains reconstructions of conversations that could only be so detailed and historically accurate if they had been recorded, which does not seem to be the case. The book's historical accuracy is further open to question by the author's opening statements that he "altered various names and identifying details" and condensed the chronology. The author also apparently believes that some Israeli agency (perhaps Mossad) was investigating his family. Had he focused on re-creating his father's experience and avoided trying to make this into an international thriller, he would have produced a much better book. Not recommended.
—Frederic Krome

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780452289949
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/26/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
1,274,924
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Mark Kurzem grew up in Melbourne, Australia. He studied anthropology at the University of Oxford, where he was a Commonwealth Scholar, and also studied at Melbourne, Jochi, and Tokyo universities, where he was a Monbusho Research Scholar; his academic research focused on Japanese society. He has worked in the fields of political research, international relations, teaching, and filmmaking in Japan, Australia, and the United Kingdom. He was also an international relations adviser to the mayor of Osaka. In 2002, he coproduced and wrote a documentary about his father’s life, also titled The Mascot, which was the subject of international attention. He lives in Oxford.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Roper1 More than 1 year ago
unusual story of the experiences of a child during WWII. i have been recommending it to all my friends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every story of survival from the Holocaust is incredibly unique and Mark Kurzem's The Mascot is no exception. I must say that once the author's father, Alex Kurzem, begins to unlock the memories--after over 60 years of silence--of escape from near certain death, his nurturing by would-be executioners, and ultimate search for his true identity, the book is nearly impossible to put down. The basic reservation I had about the book--which is presented in narrative form--is that whenever the story drifts away from its riveting father/son dialogue, the telling becomes a bit wordy and almost extraneously repetitive. I found myself doing a lot of skimming so as to get back to the meat of the story--the father's cathartic-like revelations. But, that said, the book is very worthwhile reading.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
There are many stories to come out of World War II, both told and untold, this is surely one of the most remarkable. It is a tale of survival but not without cost. As a five-year-old boy Alex Kurzem saw his mother and father as well as neighbors shot by the Nazis. For some inexplicable reason his life was spared and he ran to hide in a dense Russian forest. Amazingly he did not freeze to death during the unrelenting cold but existed by searching for food and taking the clothes of dead soldiers. When he is found by a group of Latvian SS soldiers they never imagine he is Jewish but believe he is Russian and more or less adopt him, making him a little corporal in the SS with his own uniform. Young Alex fears for his life, of course, and does as he is told, even to repeatedly watching repetitions of the same fate that befell his parents and starring in a Nazi propaganda film. What price survival? What he has done will haunt Alex for the rest of his days. He is so troubled by his past that he does not even tell his wife and only later reveals his entire story to his son, the author of this memoir, Mark Kurzem. The Mascot is not only a reminder of one of history's darkest times but testimony to the dramatic effects it may have on those who are not killed but sorely injured in their hearts and souls. - Gail Cooke
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so inspirational and thought provoking. The back drop is WWII and it is the story of a child's physical and spiritual survival. If you like history and wish to understand more about WWII and what occurred in the Baltic states, you'll love this book. If you are fascinated by the ability of the human spirit to thrive after witnessing some of the most horrific evil acts of the past century, then this book is a window into the human soul and its undefeatable spirit.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an oustanding book. The story is compelling, intriguing, frightening, and inspirational. One of the best WWII books.
tedfeit0 25 days ago
This book is a perfect example of Truth is Stranger than Fiction. It is the story of how a five-year- old Jewish boy managed to escape the wholesale slaughter in 1941 from a small village near Minsk while hiss family and others were killed by a Nazi extermination squad. He manages to hide and survive in forests until he is adopted by a Latvian sergeant and made a mascot, clad in a variety of uniforms as he accompanied the soldiers in the field, witnessing all kings of atrocities. After the war, he ends up in Australia, where he marries and has three sons. Many years later he tells part of his story to hi eldest son, the author of this improbable tale, and thus begins an effort to verify elements of his story and establish, if possible, his original identify, since he has no early memory at all, not even his name, except for two words which mean nothing to him. Not only is the story unusual, but also the level of the writing: This is the author’s first book, and is of the high quality of a seasoned novelist. There are countless remembrances of the Holocaust, but none approaches this mystery of how a young Jewish boy survived constant exposure while being in the middle of Nazi and Latvian soldiers fearing constant threat of possible death if discovered. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well-written,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sweetkitten More than 1 year ago
Mesmerizing. Page turner.Some readers ask why did he stay with the Latvians. He was omy 5 when he saw his family murdered. He grabbed on to whatever protection he could find. I grew up in Europe in WW11, being born in 1934 and read extensively about the war, This book is about the best one I have read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book for all generations to read. Not by the work of the author, but the compelling story of a child survivor of WW2,who captures your heart with a journey of personal nightmares from the age of six past 60.The ending provides the victim a source of resolution to his history, buried in despair,for more than five generations and across continents and family histories he knows nothing of. Truly a book that will touch your heart.