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They Are Still Alive based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
They Are Still Alive is a memoir by Philip Pressel. It is a recounting of his years as a young boy in Europe during WWII and his subsequent years growing up in America. Really, anybody's life story is interesting if told well but Pressel's story is especially interesting because he came from a Jewish family from Belgium that had the misfortune of living during Hitler's reign of terror. Pressel's parents fled Belgium to live in France where they made a meager living while trying to escape capture from not only the Nazi's but the French police who acquiesced to the Germans in trying to round up Jews. In order to protect their son, Pressel's parents entrusted him to a local French Catholic family who cared for Philip while his parents went underground. Pressel does an excellent job of describing the hardship he and his family went through as well as the generosity of his French foster parents as they all tried to survive those nightmarish times. After the war, Pressel's family immigrated to the United States where his dad got a job as a translator for the United Nations. This portion of the book serves as a good example of how children thrived and succeeded in getting an education through the public schools despite being foreign, poor, a minority and not being able to speak the language. "I first attended the Arrandale Elementary School and, by necessity, learned English very quickly....In Europe, I had practiced speaking and reading English with my parents. Now I was forced to use my English and really learn it so I could keep up with my studies and socialize. ...I must have had a strong French accent, but it eventually disappeared as I became more "American." It is amazing how being forced to speak and read English helps people learn the language quickly! Now, in my older years, I disapprove of teaching children in their native language instead of in English." (pg.88, 89) The rest of the book is pretty much a chronology of Pressel's life in America. He got an engineering degree, got married, had kids, worked and pretty much lived a normal life. In his seventies he finally returned to France and was reunited with the family who took care of him there. Pressel includes letters of his parents that were written during the war years. They can be quite heart rending as they describe their predicament and plea with family members and government officials in America to allow them to immigrate, something that the Allied countries seemed to be stubborn in preventing many desperate Jewish families from doing. The most interesting aspect of the book for me, beside Pressel's personal account of surviving Hitler's regime (which most of his extended family did not) is the great detail he goes into in describing all the Jewish customs, traditions and holidays. Books like these are important because they preserve the memory of what needs to be remembered. If you like history and especially this time period. This is a fairly interesting read.