The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust

Overview

Haunting, beautifully written and deeply moving memoir of a young Israeli soldier

“She took from me the belief that absolute evil exists in this world, and the belief that I was avenging it and fighting against it. For that girl, I embodied absolute evil ... Since then I have been left without my Holocaust, and since then everything in my life has assumed a new meaning: belongingness is blurred, pride is ...

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The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust: A Memoir

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Overview

Haunting, beautifully written and deeply moving memoir of a young Israeli soldier

“She took from me the belief that absolute evil exists in this world, and the belief that I was avenging it and fighting against it. For that girl, I embodied absolute evil ... Since then I have been left without my Holocaust, and since then everything in my life has assumed a new meaning: belongingness is blurred, pride is lacking, belief is faltering, contrition is heightening, forgiveness is being born.”

The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust is the deeply moving memoir of Chayut’s journey from eager Zionist conscript on the front line of Operation Defensive Shield to leading campaigner against the Israeli occupation. As he attempts to make sense of his own life as well as his place within the wider conflict around him, he slowly starts to question his soldier’s calling, Israel’s justifications for invasion, and the ever-present problem of historical victimhood.

Noam Chayut’s exploration of a young soldier’s life is one of the most compelling memoirs to emerge from Israel for a long time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this shattering memoir, former Israeli army officer Chayut details his long, painful journey of self-realization. Raised in a town where the commemoration of the Holocaust and its perpetrators is continually stressed, Chayut was eager to perform his compulsory military service. As a soldier, he was certain that he belonged "to the most moral army in the world." A chance encounter with a terrified 10 year-old Palestinian girl planted the seed that eventually forced Chayut to face the fact that "For that girl, I embodied absolute evil." Slowly he realized that, while he had thought of himself as a noble warrior, he was himself guilty of a thousand petty, sadistic acts; pointless humiliations intended to keep a subject people in their place. Chayut is now active in "Breaking the Silence", a group of former soldiers who testify about their misdeeds in the occupation of Palestine. And though he is Israeli, he must be understood as the universal soldier: trained to obey, numbed by experience, taking out his frustrations on those who can't fight back. Chayut could be any one of us, anywhere; if only we all had the courage to face ourselves so unflinchingly. (June)
Ilan Pappe
“This humane journey into the inhumanity of oppression exposes the rawest nerves of the Israeli society and its attitude towards the occupied Palestinians. Very few in Israel would have dared to associate in any way the Holocaust with the occupation, but this bold and sensitive personal account makes it abundantly clear that for Israeli Jews the Holocaust and their policies in Palestine will always be interconnected and inseparable.”
Haaretz
Measured,
critical, self-conscious and excellently written ... this autobiography is also a travelogue, an initiation novel, and a morality play—all in one.— Shira Stav
Shira Stav - Haaretz
“Measured,
critical, self-conscious and excellently written ... this autobiography is also a travelogue, an initiation novel, and a morality play—all in one.”
Shira Stav
“Measured,critical, self-conscious and excellently written ... this autobiography is also a travelogue, an initiation novel, and a morality play—all in one.”
Kirkus Reviews
A former Israeli soldier's lucid memoir on his ideological conversion from a boy raised amid Holocaust memorials to a young man whose belief in Zionism and absolute evil was shaken. Chayut, whose childhood was marked by anger, sorrow, shame and the "unwillingness to be a part of all this [Jewish legacy]," soon accepted the anti-Arab rhetoric of those around him, served as a youth counselor, joined the Nahal Brigade with pride and proclaimed Israel's cause to raise funds in the United States. Doubts regarding his service in the "most moral army in the world," however, were planted during the course of a routine excursion when he encountered a villager who returned his smile with fear--a moment he would later consider pivotal and which helped him to realize that in the girl's eyes, he was the enemy. Through travel after leaving the army, meeting Bedouins, Palestinians and others, Chayut gradually distanced himself from his former righteousness. The latter half of the book chronicles the author's efforts with Breaking the Silence--an organization that urges Israeli soldiers to record their experiences in the occupied territories--and includes some of the testimonies he has gathered over the years: e.g., "Soldiers shoot wildly into residential areas without even knowing where the shots they're supposedly reacting to are coming from….Neighborhoods are sprayed with gunfire and the guys laugh their hearts out." Readers initially drawn to this title for its controversial topic will find that the book is more layered than a straightforward confession of military crimes. The author skillfully plays out questions of regret, nationalism, misplaced loyalty and the courage to remake one's life against the chance meeting with the girl who unwittingly sparked reflection. Chayut's account of self-reckoning is remarkable not only for the portrait of an unexpected turnaround, but also for its appealing prose.
From the Publisher
“Measured, critical, self-conscious and excellently written ... this autobiography is also a travelogue, an initiation novel, and a morality play—all in one.”—Shira Stav, Haaretz
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781781680889
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 6/4/2013
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,477,730
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Noam Chayut was born in 1979 and joined the Nachel Brigade as a conscript in 1998. He swiftly rose to the rank of officer and saw action during Operation Defensive Shield. He left the army in 2003 and later joined Breaking the Silence, a platform for former soldiers to record their testimonies about life in the military. His memoir was published in Israel in 2010.

Born in Jerusalem, Tal Haran studied English Literature at Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University. For twenty-five years she has translated works to and from Hebrew, primarily in the humanities, and in the past decade, in political philosophy and works dealing with the Israel–Palestine conflict. Her recent translations include The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust by Noam Chayut, Dark Hope by David Shulman, and forthcoming, The One-State Condition by Ariella Azoulay and Adi Ophir.

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