The Seamstress: A Memoir of Survival

( 12 )

Overview

Growing up, Sara (Seren) Tuvel was the smartest, most ambitious girl in her Romanian mountain village. When she won and accepted a scholarship to a Gentiles-only Gymnasium, she was forced to make a decision that would change her path forever. At thirteen, faced with a teacher's anti-Semitism, Seren walked out of her classroom and into a new existence. She became the apprentice to a seamstress, and her skill with needle and thread enabled her again and again to patch the fraying pieces of her life. As the Nazis ...
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Overview

Growing up, Sara (Seren) Tuvel was the smartest, most ambitious girl in her Romanian mountain village. When she won and accepted a scholarship to a Gentiles-only Gymnasium, she was forced to make a decision that would change her path forever. At thirteen, faced with a teacher's anti-Semitism, Seren walked out of her classroom and into a new existence. She became the apprentice to a seamstress, and her skill with needle and thread enabled her again and again to patch the fraying pieces of her life. As the Nazis encircled the country and bombs rained down, Seren stitched her way to survival, scraping together enough money to provide for her family. When she, her younger sister Esther, and two friends were sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany, the four girls became one another's shelter.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This well-told memoir by the late Bernstein deserves a prominent place in the archive of Holocaust survival stories. Born into a large Jewish Romanian family, Bernstein (1918-83), known then as Seren, left her mountain village at the age of 13 to attend gymnasium in Bucharest. Her independent spirit drove her to leave the anti-Semitic school and become an apprentice to a dressmaker rather than return home. Seren became a well-paid seamstress and assisted her family financially until WWII broke out, when she was sent to a Hungarian labor camp. In 1944, she was transported with her sister and two friends to the Ravensbrck concentration camp. Although one of her friends died, Seren and the other two survived. She vividly recounts SS beatings, frostbite and the starvation she dealt with by stealing vegetables and trading them for the bread that the three shared. After liberation, Seren married another Holocaust survivor and emigrated to Canada, and later to the U.S. In a moving afterword her daughter describes her mother's strong personality. Photos. (Oct.)
Booknews
Seren Tuvel Bernstein (1918-1983), a brave and spirited Holocaust survivor, recounts the story of her prewar life, the Holocaust years, and her efforts to reconnect with lost relatives and create a better existence for herself and her family after the war. Includes some b&w photographs. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
A striking Holocaust memoir, posthumously published, by a Romanian Jew with an unusual story to tell.

From its opening pages, in which she recounts her own premature birth, triggered by terrifying rumors of an incipient pogrom, Bernstein's tale is clearly not a typical memoir of the Holocaust. She was born into a large family in rural Romania between the wars and grew up feisty and willing to fight back physically against anti-Semitism from other schoolchildren. She defied her father's orders to turn down a scholarship that took her to Bucharest, and got herself expelled from that school when she responded to a priest/teacher's vicious diatribe against the Jews by hurling a bottle of ink at him. Ashamed to return home after her expulsion, she looked for work in Bucharest and discovered a talent for dressmaking. That talent—and her blond hair, blue eyes, and overall Gentile appearance—allowed her entry into the highest reaches of Romanian society, albeit as a dressmaker. Bernstein recounts the growing shadow of the native fascist movement, the Iron Guard, a rising tide of anti-Semitic laws, and finally, the open persecution of Romania's Jews. After a series of incidents that ranged from dramatic escapes to a year in a forced labor detachment, Sara ended up in Ravensbrück, a women's concentration camp deep in Germany. Nineteen out of every twenty women transported there died. The author, her sister Esther, and two other friends banded together and, largely due to Sara's extraordinary street smarts and intuition, managed to survive. Although Bernstein was not a professional writer, she tells this story with style and power. Her daughter Marlene contributes a moving epilogue to close out Sara's life.

One of the best of the recent wave of Holocaust memoirs.

From the Publisher
"There are many recent accounts of Holocaust victims, but this work stands alone as a testimony to personal strength and an independent spirit." —-Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425166307
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/28/1999
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 183,273
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author


Sara Tuvel Bernstein was born in Romania and became an expert seamstress. Coming soon... Coming soon...

Wanda McCaddon has narrated well over six hundred titles for major audio publishers and has earned more than twenty-five Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine. She has also won a coveted Audie Award, and AudioFile has named her one of recording's Golden Voices.

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Table of Contents

Introduction by Edgar M. Bronfman Maps Part One Prologue Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Epilogue Afterword by Marlene Bernstein Samuels

Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

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(11)

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2006

    An eye opening memior.

    This book was recommended to me by a child of survivors. She said it was the first book that really gave her insight into what her mother went through. After reading it I agree wholeheartedly that this book is different than other that I have read. No punches were pulled.Sarah Bernstein survived because of her inner strength. How she did it and what the world around her was like is vividly and chillingly told.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2012

    Interesting Holocaust survival story

    This telling of time in the Ravensbruck concentration camp and the brutal conditions in Romania during WW2 for Jews and other minorities, ends on an upbeat note. the history of the area of Hungary and romania was also very interesting. A good read if you don't mind Holocaust stories.

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  • Posted October 30, 2010

    One of the best---

    "The Seamstress" is one of the best of the Holocaust survivor stories.
    Sara's iron will, ingenuity, bravery and smarts carried her through. Just as important as her story was learning about the Bulgarians and the help they gave to the Jews during WWII. This was news to me, and apparently to many others I know who have read this book. Sit down to read it when you have plenty of time. It's difficult to put down.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    i need help!!

    can someone help me to describe some of the key experiences that Sara Tuvel Bernstein remembers living through in her time at the Ravensbrück camp in 100 words. i really need help as i can't afford to buy the book n it's due tomorrow. thanks.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2009

    One of the top ten books I have read.

    This is an incredible story. I could not help but wonder what Ms Tuval's young life would have been like had she not had the misfortune of coming of age in one of the worst times in 20th century history. As it stands, her courage, bravery and good sense make for a riveting tale of how she survived in the most dangerous of times. A must read for anyone who is interested in the holocaust and or strong female subjects.

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  • Posted March 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Best book I have read thus far in life.

    This is the best book I have ever read. I could not put it down I have let several people borrow it and they all feel the same way, they have recomended it to other people and so on. I already want to read it again and I finished it two months ago. In all honestly I would stand by this book 100%

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2007

    Everyone must read

    This book was outstanding. I learned things that they never taught us in history class. Im not one who likes to read but this story took me in and wouldnt let me put it down until it was done.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2004

    This book was descriptive and heartbreaking

    This book was so detailed and so real. I just wanted to read it constantly, never stop. I can¿t say how much I like it. If you are a reader who loves to read about the Holocaust or history and likes to feel like you are really a person or character in the book. Well, this is the book to read. I was never interested in history, the Holocaust until my 5th and 6th grade literacy teachers¿ introduced certain books to me. In 5th grade the first book on the Holocaust that I read was Number the Stars. I started to read more and more books on history. Then my 6th grade literacy teacher suggested books for me to read, books that I would enjoy. She said Lily¿s Crossing she had read it and enjoyed it herself. I am so glad that they introduced me or I would never choose this amazing book. I would like more suggestion on books of smiliar subjects.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2003

    Great Book!!!!

    i thought that this book was great. it really told you how cruel the holocaust was, which many people don't know about. it was alo very interesting, as seren described everhing that happened around her. great book!! i would definately reccomend this book to anyone!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2002

    An Extremely Detailed Brilliant Written True Account

    This is the very first book I ever read about concentration camp survivors and will recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a very true account of these survivors. This book was so beautifully written I can read it again and again. This book was so moving to me, it inspired me to continue reading about all books on concentration camp survivors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2000

    A Book to Cry For

    I'm not even finished with this book and I have to recommend it to everyone. This would be a great book for a middle school or high school library. Seren touches your heart. You are there on the train, standing in the cold with frozen feet, stealing carrots and radishes to trade for bread, or standing in line with hundreds of others to use the one toilet. No book I've ever read has made the horrors of the haulocaust as real as this book. We must remember. We must not repeat.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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