Born in Hungary in 1927, Magda Hollander-Lafon was among the 437,000 Jews deported from Hungary between May and July 1944. Magda, her mother, and her younger sister survived a three-day deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau; there, she was considered fit for work and so spared, while her mother and sister were sent straight to their deaths. Hollander-Lafon recalls an experience she had in Birkenau: “A dying woman gestured to me: as she opened her hand to reveal four scraps of moldy bread, she said to me in a barely audible voice, ‘Take it. You are young. You must live to be a witness to what is happening here. You must tell people so that this never happens again in the world.’ I took those four scraps of bread and ate them in front of her. In her look I read both kindness and release. I was very young and did not understand what this act meant, or the responsibility that it represented.”
Years later, the memory of that woman’s act came to the fore, and Magda Hollander-Lafon could be silent no longer. In her words, she wrote her book not to obey the duty of remembering but in loyalty to the memory of those women and men who disappeared before her eyes. Her story is not a simple memoir or chronology of events. Instead, through a series of short chapters, she invites us to reflect on what she has endured. Often centered on one person or place, the scenes of brutality and horror she describes are intermixed with reflections of a more meditative cast. Four Scraps of Bread is both historical and deeply evocative, melancholic, and at times poetic in nature. Following the text is a “Historical Note” with a chronology of the author's life that complements her kaleidoscopic style. After liberation and a period in transit camps, she arrived in Belgium, where she remained. Eventually, she chose to be baptized a Christian and pursued a career as a child psychologist.
The author records a journey through extreme suffering and loss that led to radiant personal growth and a life of meaning. As she states: "Today I do not feel like a victim of the Holocaust but a witness reconciled with myself.” Her ability to confront her experiences and free herself from her trauma allowed her to embrace a life of hope and peace. Her account is, finally, an exhortation to us all to discover life-giving joy.
|Publisher:||University of Notre Dame Press|
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
For over twenty years, Magda Hollander-Lafon has shared her experiences with thousands of high-school students. First published in French in 2012 as Quatre petits bouts de pain, Hollander-Lafon’s book has won two prestigious literary awards in France, including the 2012 Panorama-La Procure prize for books on spirituality. It has been translated into six languages and now into English.
Translator's bio: Anthony T. Fuller has extensive experience translating literature as well as political and current affairs documents. He founded and was the first president from 2005-2012 of the Princeton, New Jersey, chapter of the Alliance Française, an international grouping of French-language educational and cultural institutions.
Read an Excerpt
"Magda Hollander-Lafon was born in Hungary on June 15, 1927 near the border with Slovakia. Her family was Jewish but not practicing. Nevertheless as a result of the racial laws introduced in Hungary between 1938 and 1941, her father was taken away for forced labor, and eventually Magda herself was denied schooling.
"Together with her mother and sister, she was among the 437,403 Jews deported from Hungary between May and July 1944. After a three-day journey in a crowded cattle wagon she arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she was immediately separated from her family. Because she claimed to be eighteen when in fact she was only sixteen, she was considered fit for work and thus avoided being sent straight to her death. Her mother and sister were not so lucky.
"It was in Auschwitz-Birkenau that a dying woman gave Magda four scraps of bread, telling her: 'Take it. You are young, you must live to be a witness to what is happening here. You must tell others so that this never happens again in the world.' " --from the Translator's Preface