Alicia: My Story

Alicia: My Story

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback)

View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Monday, November 26

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553282184
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/1989
Pages: 433
Sales rank: 227,941
Product dimensions: 6.82(w) x 10.96(h) x 0.85(d)
Lexile: 880L (what's this?)

About the Author

Alicia Appleman was a writer and lecturer. She was the author of Alicia: My Story. She died in 2017.

Read an Excerpt

Before the War
First they killed my brother Moshe.…
Then they killed my father.…
Then they killed my brother Bunio.…
Then they killed my brother Zachary.…
Then they killed my last brother, Herzl.
Only my mother and I were left. I vowed that I would never let them kill her, that I would protect my mother from the Nazis and their collaborators for as long as I lived.
Love and hate were what motivated my young mind and heart. Love for my dear, gentle mother—and hate for the cruel murderers.
And this is my story.
In 1938, there were eighteen thousand Jewish people in our Polish city of Buczacz, nearly one-third of the total population. Some of the more orthodox Jews wore the classic black frock coats and fur hats, while others dressed just like the rest of the residents and were largely well-integrated into the community.
We had many things to be proud of: the Hebrew schools, the Talmud Torah house, and our joy and pride, the Great Synagogue. It was a very impressive large structure with tall stained-glass windows. It had a small synagogue attached to one side, giving the impression of a father and son standing there proudly. The small synagogue was used for daily prayers, and the large synagogue for the Sabbath and the rest of the holidays.
I was quite familiar with the synagogue, since my older brother Bunio sang in the choir. We had a handsome young rabbi with a beautiful wife, and both were accomplished violinists. The rabbi chose his choir from among the students with good voices who attended Mr. Kofler’s Hebrew school. My brother Bunio, who was an alto, was selected, and so was his friend David, who was a soprano. They were both soloists during the High Holiday prayers. I often listened to their rehearsals, sitting in the semi-darkness of the balcony, where the ladies prayed. My brother’s voice would reach into the depth of my soul and carry me off into the beauty of its words and melody.
It was in this synagogue that Bunio had his Bar Mitzvah. Bunio’s beautiful voice was a sensation. Of course Mama and I had to watch from upstairs, but we could see and hear everything. My youngest brother, Herzl, saved us some of the candies that were thrown at the Bar Mitzvah boy. We had a kiddush at the synagogue, a reception at home, and my mother prepared the midday meal for the students of the Beth Hamidrash—the house of Jewish studies. It was a beautiful day.
Part of being Jewish in Poland was learning to live with anti-Semitism. As a young child I had not encountered Jew-haters, partly because I was born in the remote mountains and also because my parents and older brothers were so protective. I didn’t classify my friends as Jewish or Gentile, although I knew there was a difference between Judaism and Christianity. Life was pretty good, and we were happy—until the first shocking act of anti-Semitism hit our family.
It happened to my oldest brother, Zachary, in May of 1938. He was a student at the conservatory of music in Lvov and was on his way to school, violin case in hand, when a gang of five Polish boys began following him. They were Polish university students. “How about a little music, Jew-boy?” one of them asked. The others laughed. Zachary kept on walking, his eyes looking straight ahead, his fist clenching tighter around the handle of the case.
“What’s the matter, Zhid [Jew],” another boy said. “Are you deaf or something?”
“How can he play the violin if he is deaf?” said another.
“Come on, Zhid, let’s hear you play.”
At that point my brother stopped. Turning around, he appraised the situation. Two of the boys were as tall as he; the others were shorter but stockier. They were all students in school uniforms. “Please, let me go in peace,” Zachary said to them.
The boys surrounded him. “Not until you play us a song.” One of the boys pushed him back roughly; another reached out and snatched away the violin case. My brother lunged toward him, but two others caught him and threw him against a wall, holding his arms firmly. A boy opened the case, took out the violin and bow, and began to make sawing noises on the instrument while the others laughed. “Well, it’s no wonder you wouldn’t play for us,” he said. “This thing isn’t worth anything.” With that he bent over and smashed the violin against the pavement. With a cry Zachary broke free and threw himself forward, nearly reaching the boy. He was stopped by a swift kick in the stomach, which doubled him over with pain and took away his breath. That was when the boys fell upon him, kicking and punching. They held him by the hair and slammed his head against the pavement. They kicked him in the ribs, took turns holding his arms so the others could beat him, and finally left him there in the street, his broken violin a few feet away. He was helped by a Jewish music student who brought him back to his room.
Zachary came home to Buczacz by train with his wounds still fresh. I will never forget how my father paced back and forth as my mother examined Zachary and bandaged him. We were all there in the kitchen, all except for Bunio, who had choir practice and would be home later. I thought of him there at the synagogue, singing his heart out, not knowing his older brother had been beaten and humiliated.
The first time I really became aware of Germany and what was going on in Europe was when I went to get my father at Horovitz’s candy store, where he was engaged in a game of billiards in the back room. I was waiting for him while sitting in a chair and eating an ice cream cone. Nearby, two men were smoking and talking. I did not pay much attention at first, but the word “war” caught my attention. I knew from history books about wars, and I had seen Papa’s medal for bravery, which he had earned as an Austrian officer in the First World War. I also knew that wars could be terrible. One of the men insisted that Germany was going to move east no matter what, and there was going to be a war. Austria had already been invaded and Poland was going to be next, he continued. But the other man was more optimistic, saying that England was not going to let this happen. They kept mentioning other countries I had studied in my geography class, and suddenly the maps I had drawn seemed more real and threatening. I was loyal to my country and did not want anything to happen to it.
On the way home I mentioned this conversation to my father and his face became very sad. I knew his parents were in Austria and so were many of his friends. I realized suddenly that there was a lot going on that we children did not know and that I, at the age of eight, was too young to understand. Yet, from that day on I kept asking questions, and the answers I got frightened me.
But life had to go on, including school and Hebrew classes, and homework and friends, so I let things go; but the seed of worry was planted in my mind, and it grew. During the summer of 1938, which I spent at my uncle’s home in Stanislavov where he practiced medicine, I tried to find out what was going on from my friend Milek, but he could not explain things to me. He did not know too much himself. My uncle was very busy that summer caring for his sick patients, and, as usual, he was very loving and wanted me to have a good time. He probably knew in his heart that the war would soon begin.

What People are Saying About This

Elie Wiesel

This memoir is heartbreaking. I hope it will be read by Jews and non-Jews alike.
—Elie Wiesel, author of Night

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Alicia: My Story (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
Fuji More than 1 year ago
This is the most disturbing and saddest story I have read in a long time. Alicia Jurman wrote this memoir about her childhood and youth during the Nazi occupation of Ukraine and Poland with love for her family and the few people who helped her. The only aspect of her story that is more courageous than her actions during this time, is the sheer fact that she was able to tell the story,thereby having to relive it. This book is so riveting, the reader will have a hard time putting it down. At the same time, it often is so terrifying that one is afraid to turn the page. I highly recommend this book. It made me think, made me ashamed of the actions of some members of the human race, and it gave me hope. If Alicia Jurman survived all of this, and still had a caring soul left, there is hope for the rest of us Perhaps this book should be made required reading for all High School students, as well as for all people old enough to remember theses times. While the Nazis and their collaborators committed these crimes, the entire wold nevertheless looked on and did nothing.
BALLOONMOM More than 1 year ago
This book was absolutely riveting. The author nearly lost her life on several occasions and lived to help so many others. I could not put this book down. Absolutely amazing what the human spirit can endure. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am in awe of Alicia. I am amazed that she survived the hell during WW II. I read her book and I cannot believe that she survived. I have read other accounts and I thought I learned all about the Holocaust, but I am wrong. Her book taught me so much. Alicia, along with Anne Frank, Livia Bitton-Jackson, and Gerda Weissman Klein, is my hero.
Caroline Gates More than 1 year ago
I could never get into Anne Frank, but this book and Alicia's survival is just amazing. In spite of all the bad things that happen to her, her courage is awesome. I love this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the book is so touching that you feel all the emotions of her travels and heartbreak, it shows the strength and determination of a young girl in a horrific situation. a must read. The ending makes you cry with such relief and admiration for the young girl. We could all learn something from reading this book. Family is never forgotten and material things mean nothing in the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It ended too abruptly, I wanted to read more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a heartwrenching journey. What a blessing we were given to read this journey.
Jennifer DiLucia More than 1 year ago
Very good book. covers so much and so many aspects of the Holocaust. Be careful with children and this book though, just read it first then decide. Older mature teens would be better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first read Alicia: My Story in 8th grade as part of a project on the Holocaust and WWII. Out of all the books I read during that time (includinf Night and The Cage), this was the most poigant and the most heartbreaking. I still cry when Alicia loses her mother, even though I know it is going to happen. It is a story of courge and strength. I have read it 5 times since the 8th grade and would reccomend it to anyone who wants to learn about the Holocaust. -Megan M. Sick, sophmore college student
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had the honor of meeting the author of this book shortly after reading it (as a sixth grader over 10 years ago). A friend of the family arranged for her to also come to my K-8 school and speak to the students. The book is the most amazing story I have ever read and after speaking with her in person I have nothing but respect and awe for Alicia. It took a lot to be able to dredge up the pain of the Holocaust, but she did it so others could learn from her life. Thank you Alicia, you forever changed my life.
van_stef on LibraryThing 3 months ago
powerful and griping. A very good read; I recommend it to high school or middle school students just starting to get interested into the holocaust.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so amazed by this wonderful young girl Alicia, unbelievable story of survival !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unbelievable that a young child could survive such horrific obstacles. Story keeps you engrossed til the end. Knowing these are a real person's experiences makes it so captivating. Very intetesting!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That she survived is amazing. Hopefully her story is a reminder of what we can never let happen again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read for everyone. Well written and absolutely unbelievable. I cannot believe the strength of this woman, especially considering how young she was when her turmoil began. This was a wonderful surprise and I recommend this book to everyone.