The Lost Childhood: A World War ll Memoir

Overview

A gripping, extraordinary memoir of six years in the life of a daring and resourceful Polish Jewish boy and his family, who survived the Holocaust using false papers and posing as Catholics.

Yehuda Nir was nine years old when his father was shot dead by German soldiers in a mass execution of Jewish men in their Polish town. Yehuda, along with his mother and teenage sister, escaped with the aid of false documents. It was 1941--the Holocaust was gaining a grim momentum. The family...

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Overview

A gripping, extraordinary memoir of six years in the life of a daring and resourceful Polish Jewish boy and his family, who survived the Holocaust using false papers and posing as Catholics.

Yehuda Nir was nine years old when his father was shot dead by German soldiers in a mass execution of Jewish men in their Polish town. Yehuda, along with his mother and teenage sister, escaped with the aid of false documents. It was 1941--the Holocaust was gaining a grim momentum. The family plunged into what would be four long, harrowing years disguised as Catholics. Never knowing if each day of hiding in the open would be his last, Yehuda was often forced to separate from his mother and sister, live on dogs and mice, hide in sewers, and live in utter chaos.

Describes six years in the life of a daring and resourceful Polish Jewish boy and his family, who survived the Holocaust by using false papers and posing as Catholics.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
To the burgeoning shelf of outstanding Holocaust memoirs, Nir, a New York City psychiatrist, contributes this stellar account of how he eluded capture as a Jewish boy in Poland during WWII. His story, previously told for adults in a 1989 book with the same title, recalls Louis Begley's Wartime Lies in its rapid chronicling of daring ruses, hairbreadth escapes from Germans and anti-Semitic Poles, and the everyday snares threatening the narrator's attempts to pass himself off as Catholic. At one point, he admires his older sister's ability to "continually mastermind escape strategies that would have made Houdini jealous"; Nir himself appears to have shared that talent. Readers will admire his quick thinking and bravery. The author shifts easily between the perspective of childhood and adolescence and the psychological insights of a rigorously attentive adult. For example, describing his involvement in the Polish partisan uprising that ended in the razing of Warsaw, Nir writes: "Paradoxically, I could cope with this constant onslaught of painful and dangerous experiences at age fourteen, not so much because of my strength but because of the very fact that events followed each other so rapidly. Before I could ponder one situation, I was wrestling with another." Unflinching in his depiction of brutality and suffering, Nir is also empathetic in his acceptance of the feelings of his young self. His book merits and rewards serious attention. Ages 14-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Many Jewish children survived the Holocaust through going underground, hiding with courageous families who risked their own lives to save them. This is the story of one such Polish child who lived through four harrowing years passing as a German Catholic, along with his mother and sister, after their father was murdered by the Nazis. Through such subterfuge as false papers, including the Communion certificate that saved his life more than once, this Polish boy and his family were constantly on the move through different countries with different identities and disguises, survival their only goal. Now an associate professor of psychiatry at Cornell University Medical School, the author has penned a tale of such horror as to be difficult to comprehend from the viewpoint of middle class safety—the very environment from which he was yanked at the age of nine. This book is hard to put down and should be must reading for adults as well as young people. 2002 (orig. 1989), Scholastic,
— Judy Chernak
VOYA
World War II is a week old, and nine-year-old Nir and his family of wealthy Polish Jews flee the Germans to seek refuge in Rumania. They are rebuffed, but Soviets, not Germans, take their hometown, so they return. The horrific events that follow comprise Nir's memoir. In 1941, Nir's city finally falls to the Germans, and his father is rounded up and shot. Now aged eleven, Nir sees him marched away. The remaining family members obtain forged baptismal certificates and pass as Christian until 1945, moving from time to time when the gentile cover wears thin. Nir's lost childhood is made up of betrayals, bribes, random violence, lice, casual sex, starvation to the point of finally eating cats, rape, and the omnipresent tension of a double life. One incident stands out as fifteen-year-old Nir wades for hours through the sewers of Warsaw, chest-high in excrement, carrying Molotov cocktails to the Polish resistance. The narrative voice is adult but accessible. Nir says, "I was determined... all the Germans would... pay for their compatriots' crimes. They were all collaborators." He opens with a quote from Samuel Beckett's Malone Dies: "Let me say before I go any further that I forgive nobody. I wish them all an atrocious life and then the fires and ice of hell and in the execrable generations to come." To offer a different response to atrocity, pair this evocative chronicle with an adult book that is suitable for teens, No Future Without Forgiveness (Doubleday, 1999) by Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined asgrades 10 to 12). 2002 (orig. 1989), Scholastic, 288p,
— Mary Heslin
School Library Journal
Gr 7-Up In this powerful memoir, Nir describes his Jewish family's experiences in Poland during World War II. Throughout most of the war he, his mother, and sister hid in plain sight as Catholics, ever fearful that they would be unmasked and sent to the gas chambers. The author depicts their lives with incredible immediacy, giving readers a real sense of what life was like for not only the Jews, but also for the Poles. He clearly portrays the harsh treatment of the Polish people by the Germans and Russians, as well as the rampant Polish anti-Semitism of the time. He does not shy away from the brutal realities of his experiences, including details such as seeing men murdered in the streets, a nightmarish trip through a sewer while in the Polish resistance, and the violence and rapes in the refugee camps. Readers enter his world of fear, filth, and hunger; of constant close calls; of bravery and despair; of being forced to bury his true identity until lying became more normal than truth. Unlike the authors of many Holocaust books, Nir was not hidden and therefore was able to observe the war firsthand. He shows the horror that everyone experienced, but Jews most of all, and he does it in an engrossing, readable, if stark fashion that will give readers a new view of an often-portrayed war. This book was first published for adults in 1989 and has been revised for a young adult audience. A painfully honest narrative. -Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Yehuda Nir was nine years old, the son of affluent, well-educated parents. Two years later, his father was shot to death in a mass execution of Jewish men. Shortly afterward, as other Jewish families were being rounded up and taken to death camps, Yehuda, with his mother and his teenage sister Lala, managed to get false documents identifying them as Catholics. With these documents-and with the good fortune of looking Polish, and the further good fortune of speaking a non-accented Polish and some German as well-the little family managed to survive while hidden in plain sight, throughout the rest of the war. Originally published for adults, this new edition has been reworked for a younger audience. This story of how they moved from place to place, how the mother and sister both found work as maids in German households, and how Yehuda himself found work as an assistant to a German dentist, is full of harrowing escapes recounted matter-of-factly, as the normal circumstances of a life in which nothing could be normal. By the end of the war, the family had been moved first to a labor camp and then to a farm within Germany itself. There is a chilling description of a Polish fellow-inmate in the labor barracks saying to Lala, "Much as I hate Hitler, we have to be grateful to him for what he has done to the Jews." An epilogue chronicles the lives of the three family members after the war; it will not surprise the reader that they all chose to emigrate. (Nonfiction. 12+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439163897
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/1/1902
  • Pages: 304
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 920L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.99 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2007

    Compelling Story of Jewish Boy and Family Escaping the Death of Concentration Camps

    The Lost Childhood is a captivating story about a young Jewish boy and his family running from an absolute death in Germany and Poland. It starts off when Yehuda Nir, the author, and his mother and sister witness the execution of their father. During the next few years as they are on the run in Poland and Germany, they are burdened with starvation, loneliness and hopelessness, without the strength to continue. But they stayed together as a family and made it through the war, though with many physical and emotional scars. I really enjoyed this book for many reasons. One of the reasons I liked it so much was because it was a true story about the Holocaust it is a memoir of the narrator and his painful experience. I also like it because the characters felt very relatable. Though they were going through something that I have never experienced before, two of the main characters were close to my age so I could understand the kind of fear, anger and nervousness they were going through. Additionally, the emotions that they were expressing in the book were those that I was feeling while reading. I found this book¿s content to be very hard to read, though I thought that the book itself was a pretty easy read. There was so much talk of death and hopelessness that it made me wish that we had had D-Day sooner then we did. I would recommend this book for young adults mature enough for a disturbing read. It is very informative, but sometimes gruesome and breathtaking. The Lost Childhood is an amazing story that I¿m sure will encourage people relive the Holocaust and everything terrible that went with it because it is a part of our history and we should never forget it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2006

    All is not lost

    This book is amazing, it takes you in a whole new direction. Other World War two books don't cover as much as this one does and from a view everyone can relate to. Other books I've read didn't go as in depth, Anne Frank showed only the view from hiding, and a play I saw only showed the ghetto and the rebelion. This book goes so much deeper, it takes you into the war, into his life, into his thoughts, and into a whole new world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2005

    incredible

    As WWII starts, all the Jews lucky enough flee, but for those who can't, death is upon them. Yehuda Nir is only 9 years old when the Nazis enter Poland, and his father is publicly assassinated. He joins his country's army and retaliates to the best of his ability - even leading to the death of Nazis. His mother, sister, and himself are constantly tricking the Germans as to spare their own lives. This memoir is definitely a book you should read, to learn what happens on the battlefields in WWII.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2004

    A World War II Memoir

    At just nine years old, Germany had invaded Poland, in 1939, during the World War II. Poland was the home country of Yehuda Nir. By 1941, Nir's father was arrested. Soon after the Germans executed him along with many innocent people. When Nir was 11 years old, he and his mother and his teenage sister Lala, were forced to move to one country to another, disguised as Polish Catholics, to be able to survive in that dangerous period of time. Onthing that I liked about this book, was that it was well described. I was able to picture most of the scences from the book. In my senior english class, we learned how to write essays describing the scences of out topics very well. So everyone would have an image well described in their minds of what we were talking about. This book is a good example of exaplining things clearly. Although it was a sad, brutal, scary, dramatically, bloody book, it was a good reading book. Another thing that I lied about this boo, was that it was well understanding. In the cover of the book there is a little boy (who it is Nir,) I thought that it was going to be a little kids book. When I started to read more and more I learned that it is actually a book for a more mature minded audience. Although the book started when Nir was a kid, throughout the book I learned that he wasn't able to have a normal childhood. At a young age he became 'the man of the house.' At this time Hitler was trying to conquest most of the world. I recomend this book to anyon who would like to know how life was at this time of life.

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