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No Time for Patience: My Road from Kaunas to Jerusalem: A Memoir of a Holocaust Survivor
     

No Time for Patience: My Road from Kaunas to Jerusalem: A Memoir of a Holocaust Survivor

by Zev Birger, Shimon Peres (Foreword by)
 

Until the age of fourteen, Zev Birgerenjoyed an idyllic childhood growing upin Kaunas, a flourishing city of mostlyprogressive Jews in Lithuania. His father held asecure job as an engineer, his mother was warmand loving, and he remembers many blissfulafternoons spent playing in the family’s gardenafter Hebrew school.

Inspired by Zionist writers, young Zev

Overview

Until the age of fourteen, Zev Birgerenjoyed an idyllic childhood growing upin Kaunas, a flourishing city of mostlyprogressive Jews in Lithuania. His father held asecure job as an engineer, his mother was warmand loving, and he remembers many blissfulafternoons spent playing in the family’s gardenafter Hebrew school.

Inspired by Zionist writers, young Zev and hisfriends firmly believed in the need to establish ahomeland for Jews. They could not have knownat the time how urgent that need would become intheir own lives. In 1940, the Russian army, then ayear later the German Nazi machine, invadedLithuania. The Birgers, along with all the otherJews in the area, were forced into the ghetto innearby Slobidka.

In simple but powerful prose, Zev describes hisfamily’s efforts to survive in this ghetto,including being discovered by the SS in a cellarhideaway as gunfire sounded from theapproaching front. In 1944, the Birgers weredeported to the Dachau/Kaufering concentrationcamp, where Zev was forced into heavy labor inan underground arms factory. He was the onlymember of his family to survive.

In this brief but moving story, many ofthe atrocities of ghetto and camp life as they wereexperienced by a teenaged boy come to light: thelast moment he saw his mother’s face as she wastaken away; the Children’s Atkion in 1944, duringwhich more than two thousand children wererounded up and murdered; the rampant starvationand disease around him. But there were alsomoments of light: a compassionate doctor whospared the boy when he was sick, and numerousbrushes with death that left him, astonishingly,alive.

Zev credits his stubborn nature, sheer will, andgood luck for allowing him to outwit his oppressorson so many occasions and survive untilliberation in 1945. The physical and mentalstrength that saw him through the terrible yearswould serve him years later when he becameinvolved in the establishment of the State of Israeland a driving force behind the publishing andprinting industry in his young country. As a manof books, of language and literature, of cinemaand theater, Zev Birger has always supporteddiversity in Israel’s cultural life. His gift ofbringing people together is a source of inspirationfor young and old everywhere. His story is atestament to hope, survival, and accomplishment.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Zev's story is one that must be told. Despite living through the Nazi hell, Zev never lost his faith in humanity or in human culture and creativity." —Shimon Peres, former prime minister of Israel

"Breaking a half-century of silence, Zev Birger writes from the heart in a memoir that is all the more moving for its restrained style…Written with understated eloquence, his engrossing survivor's account is a story of remarkable courage told with great modesty." —Publishers Weekly

"A richly worthwhile contribution to the library of Holocaust memoirs and a testament to spiritual resistance." —Jewish Book World

"An uplifting addition to the Holocaust genre. Recommended." —Library Journal

"No Time For Patience, through all of the horrors, is in the end a celebration of the human spirit. It is a book I want my children to read, and their children." —Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams

"No Time For Patience is a great gift to us all…We feel an intimate connection and experience the grace and urgency with which Zev tells his story. And that is the greatest accomplishment of the book—the way he makes us all his kin." —Nan Graham, Editor-in-Chief, Scribner

"Zev Birger's memoir is an inspiration to us all. A powerful and moving story of suffering and survival, his book of remembrance gives true meaning to the words, 'To Life!'" —Mel Parker, Editor-in-Chief, Book-of-the-Month Club

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
For over 50 years, Birger, director of the Jerusalem International Book Fair, refused to share his Holocaust experience with anyone, including his three sons. Breaking a half-century of silence, he writes from the heart in a memoir that is all the more moving for its restrained style. With the German invasion of Lithuania in 1941, Birger and his older brother, Mordechai, were forcibly resettled in the Kovno ghetto. Still in his early teens, he founded an underground Zionist movement, which abetted guerrilla groups fighting the Nazis, saved and circulated Hebrew books and built underground bunkers where Jewish families could hide. In 1944, when the Nazis obliterated the Kovno ghetto, Birger, his brother and their father were captured and transported to Dachau; Birger's mother was sent to a different camp, and he never saw her again. His father perished in Dachau; Mordechai was transferred to another camp, escaped and was eventually caught and executed. By the time Birger was liberated by American soldiers in 1945, he was a typhus-stricken living skeleton. While serving as a translator in an American army unit, he joined a Jewish underground movement that helped displaced Jewish refugees emigrate illegally to British Palestine. He gives a stirring account of how, armed with false passports, he and his young bride, Trudi, sailed from Marseilles to Haifa, cramped on a converted yacht. Written with understated eloquence, his engrossing survivor's account is a story of remarkable courage told with great modesty. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
This brief Holocaust memoir, with a preface written by Shimon Peres, covers Birger's prominent role in the Zionist movement and his lifetime quest to preserve Jewish identity as well. Birger recounts his happy childhood in Lithuania, where his friends would sometimes "take bets on who could sing more arias." At the age of ten, he joined the General Zionist youth movement. Birger attributes his dream of a homeland for Jews as critical to his survival through the years that followed. The retellings of his time in the ghetto and the backbreaking work later in the Dachau/Kaufering concentration camp create the most effective chapters of the memoir. The final chapters outline his marriage, eventual trek to Jerusalem, and subsequent years as a cultural figure in Israel, including becoming the director of the Jerusalem International Book Fair. The details and names in these final chapters may be confusing and tedious for many readers. Birger explains in his author's note that in writing this book, he kept his feelings and emotions in check and was detached from the story. Perhaps because of his detachment or the poor translation and editing, his extraordinary experiences are not interesting reading. The language does not engage the reader and is full of trite phrases such as, "there was great laughter" and "there was mutual affection from the outset." Though Birger's story is worth hearing, few teens will have the patience for this memoir. VOYA CODES: 2Q 2P J S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 1999, Newmarket Press, Ages 13to18, 160p, $18.95. Reviewer: Julie Wilde
Library Journal
Birger is best known for his work as the director of the Jerusalem Book Fair and his continuing commitment to the Israeli government since its inception in 1948. Until now, however, his life in occupied Lithuania and eventual deportation to Dachau have never been documented. Here he offers a testament to his will to survive, which has carried him through his life and his work. Writing in a simple, conversational style, Birger traces his experiences before the war, in the ghetto under Russian occupation, and, finally, in Dachau, and he shows how these experiences shaped his Zionist beliefs. Although Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz (1986) is more descriptive of daily life in the camps, Birger's memoir is an uplifting and worthwhile addition to the Holocaust genre. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.--Maria C. Bagshaw, Lake Erie Coll. Lib., Painesville, OH Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
The director of the Jerusalem International Book Fair recounts how his idyllic childhood in a Zionist family in Lithuania was destroyed first by the 1940 Soviet invasion, then by German occupation and his deportation to the ghetto. He continues the story to his role in founding Israel. The German original, was published by Lucherhand Literaturverlag, Munich, in 1997. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Noteworthy but unremarkable as Holocaust memoirs go. Birger served in the Israeli government in important commercial posts, including directing the Jerusalem International Book Fair and the Economic Council on Printing and Publishing. This book industry background, like the foreword by ex–prime minister Shimon Peres, only establishes Birger's love of books, not his credentials to write one. Normally, description of the unreal Holocaust setting can compensate for literary shortcomings, but the language here is too often stilted: "a very small number of mothers had managed to save their offspring." Instead of a dramatic night watch for Liberation, Birger only notes that "for a while, we had been able to observe that something was wrong with the Germans." A post-liberation highlight was meeting General Patton and explaining why he preferred fighting for Jewish Palestine to resettlement in the United States. From his youth in Lithuania fighting anti-Semites to his underground activities in the Kovno ghetto and the hellish stay in the Dachau extermination camp, it was Zionist dreams and Hebrew culture that kept Birger alive. The only survivor in his family, he constantly convinced himself that circumstances were bearable and that he must live through the hunger, disease, and back-breaking labor to exact the revenge of survival. On his slow emergence toward health, marriage, and normalcy, he decided that, while Germans denying knowledge and complicity with Hitler were liars, there were good and bad people of every nationality, so any racism would make him guilty of Nazism. Like the rest of the world, Birger remained silent about the Holocaust for decades ("I did not want to seemmelodramatic") until his son wrote from the tank corps during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, "do not worry, we will win—there is no going back to Dachau." A writer so established in the publishing world still would have benefited from better editing and translation.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781557043863
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/01/1999
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
5.33(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.72(d)

Meet the Author

Zev Birger has been thedirector of the JerusalemInternational Book Fair forover fifteen years. Among otherpositions he has held in Israelare director of Light Industries,deputy director general of theMinistry of Commerce andIndustry, executive director ofthe Economic Council onPrinting and Publishing, and head of the Israeli FilmCenter. For several years, he lived in France and washead of the Paris office of International CreativeManagement/Film Marketing. He lives with his wife,Trudi, in Jerusalem, and has three sons and ninegrandchildren.

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