Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust's Hidden Child Survivors

Overview

They defied death by being such good girls—keeping secrets, staying out of sight, and suffering in frightened silence.

Sophie—pictured on the cover—survived the Holocaust without even knowing she was Jewish, while her terrified, widowed mother worked for the Nazis in Poland under the guise of a Christian bookkeeper.

Flora, orphaned by Final Solution, was shuttled through southern France, from convents to the ...

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Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust's Hidden Child Survivors

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Overview

They defied death by being such good girls—keeping secrets, staying out of sight, and suffering in frightened silence.

Sophie—pictured on the cover—survived the Holocaust without even knowing she was Jewish, while her terrified, widowed mother worked for the Nazis in Poland under the guise of a Christian bookkeeper.

Flora, orphaned by Final Solution, was shuttled through southern France, from convents to the homes of one Christian family after another, unsure of who she really was.

Carla and her family took shelter in the apartment of a Dutch barber, while, one floor below, the man who protected them would cut German soldiers' hair.

Sophie Turner-Zaretsky, Flora Hogman, and Carla Lessing (and her husband, Ed) survived not only the Holocaust—among the mere 10 percent of European Jewish children who did—but their own survival. Each of them ended up in New York, where they slowly emerged from the traumas of their childhoods, devoted their careers to helping others, and played important roles in the groundbreaking 1991 event that, for the first time, brought together the hidden child survivors scattered around the world.

A chance meeting with Sophie sent author R. D. Rosen, a privileged Jewish American child of the suburbs, on a journey to grasp the scope of Nazi extermination of Europe's Jews and to honor hidden children, the very last generation of survivors to have witnessed the Holocaust firsthand.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
07/07/2014
Of the 1–1.5 million Jewish children living in Nazi-occupied Europe, only 6–11% survived the Holocaust, many of them in hiding. Veteran writer Rosen (Psychobabble) devotes the first half of this book to telling the stories of three girls—one Polish, one French, and one Dutch—who endured sudden name changes, loss of Jewish identity, fear of being denounced, and frequent relocation. He also relates what happened after all three resettled in the U.S. after the war. In the book’s second half, Rosen addresses hidden children’s lingering emotional wounds, their issues with religious and ethnic identity, and their attempts to find each other, which began in the late 1970s. Rosen also discusses issues the few other authors who have previously written about this population have neglected, such as sexual abuse in hiding. A fine writer with a good sense of pacing and drama, Rosen sometimes tries to cover too much too quickly and, near the book’s end, he errs in maintaining that child survivors “are like the victims of a rare, incurable, ambulatory disease with no visible symptoms.” Yet these are relatively minor flaws in an otherwise valuable contribution to the literature of one of the less-discussed aspects of the Shoah. 16-page b&w photo insert. (Sept.)
Wall Street Journal
“R.D. Rosen proves a deft chronicler of the uncertainty, upheaval and turmoil experienced by his subjects…Most powerful of all, he makes us see how the Holocaust’s hidden children succeeded against the odds not just once, by surviving, but twice, through the resonant new lives they subsequently forged.”
Daniel Orkent
R.D. Rosen has performed an essential service to both memory and understanding. The three women at the heart of Such Good Girls have lived remarkable lives, and Rosen has limned them with both empathy and grace.
Thane Rosenbaum
“In the always harrowing and inspiring literature of Survival, R.D. Rosen’s Such Good Girls makes a poignant and well-told contribution...The ‘good girls’ of this riveting tale pulled off the improbable, which he conveys with talent, warmth, and great humanity.”
Myriam Abramowicz
“The first book that delves into the lesser-known aspect of children in hiding and the aftermath of the war years. Richly anecdotal, it reveals what it was like to become someone else-for a while-and then back again to whom one was meant to be.”
Betsy Carter
“R.D. Rosen has written about Jewish girls hidden in plain sight during the holocaust with such compassion and precision that his beautifully crafted words give a new voice to an unspeakable time. Such Good Girls is a story you will not forget.”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-12
Through the stories of three fortunate Jewish girls—one Polish, one French, one Dutch—the author reveals “hidden children” as an unexplored facet of Holocaust research.A versatile writer known for his Harvey Blissberg mysteries and other offbeat works (A Buffalo in the House: A True Story of a Man, an Animal and the American West, 2007, etc.), Rosen enters the lives of these three girls and others hidden at enormous peril during World War II. The three made their getaway from Nazi persecution with the help of Christians, and they were instructed in how to be quiet, obedient and confused about their identities. Five-year-old Selma Schwarzwald and her mother, Laura, were able to escape the Lvov ghetto in 1942 after husband Daniel bought them Christian identification papers before he was taken away and never heard from again. The resourceful mother grilled her fair-haired daughter on their new identities, as well as on the Catholic catechism, and fled to Krakow, then to Leming, where Laura, with her fluent German, found work translating for an SS man. Six-year-old Flora Hillel, at school in Nice, France, did not raise her hand in class in September 1943 when the teacher asked which children were Jews. Her fearful mother promptly deposited her in a Catholic monastery, where she received rigorous religious training and later lived with and was adopted by a French-Swedish couple and became Flora Hogman; she never heard from her mother again. Carla Heijmans moved around from one safe house to another with some of the remaining family members, much like the family of Anne Frank—except the Heijmans were not found out, and thus Carla carried the guilt of surviving when two-thirds of Europe’s Jewry did not. Rosen examines how the lives of these hidden children turned out; many survivors went into “helping professions” and never spoke of their experiences.The emotional toll of silence and victimhood, rendered through intimate detail and rich historical context.
Library Journal
09/01/2014
Rosen (A Buffalo in the House) begins this heartbreaking tale by describing how he became acquainted with Sophie Turner-Zaretzky, a retired radiologist and one of thousands of Jewish children who survived the Holocaust by disguising their Jewish identities. Her story led Rosen to two other women, Flora Hogman and Carla Lessing, whose harrowing accounts also make for a dramatic telling. Later, Rosen moves beyond their individual histories toward the wider experience of Hidden Child Survivors, and how their psychological scars often prevented them from confronting their past and telling their stories. In the 1980s, the Hidden Child Survivors started sponsoring international conferences, which often acted as therapy sessions for the now aging population. This allowed the experiences of these formerly hidden children to become widely discussed and available to historians through such institutions as the Visual Shoah Foundation and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. VERDICT Rosen, who is primarily a novelist and poet, tells the story of these women and the varied community of survivors with sensitivity and genuine affection. General readers will enjoy the book, while a scholarly audience will not find anything startling new.—Frederic Krome, Univ. of Cincinnati Clermont Coll.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062297105
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/9/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 153,960
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

R. D. Rosen has written or co-authored numerous books spanning different genres—from Edgar Award-winning mystery novels to bestselling humor books to narrative nonfiction, including Psychobabble (a word he coined in 1975) and A Buffalo in the House. He has appeared as a humorist and satirist on PBS, HBO, and NPR's All Things Considered.

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