Monday, September 8, 2014

Such Good Girls - Children Holocaust Survivors

Source: Amazon.com
Such Good Girls, by R.D. Rosen
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Category: Narrative nonfiction
Source: I received this e-galley from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for my honest review.

It is hard to pass up a Holocaust story. Although they are always filled with atrocities that we as post WWII citizens can barely comprehend, the stories of survivors and the futures they built summon that sense of hope everyone yearns to hold in their hearts despite their own situations and life experiences. The narrative nonfiction work Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust's Hidden Child Survivors, by R.D. Rosen, starts with the stories of three Jewish girls who survived the Holocaust by hiding, but lost their childhood and identity just the same.

Sophie Turner passed the war by hiding in plain sight with her mother. Sophie's story interested me because I've heard very few actual stories of Jews who survived by "passing" as a nationality other than Jewish. Flora Hogman had several name changes and religious conversions throughout the war years for the sake of hiding her Jewish heritage. However, Flora was passed from home to home, from stranger to stranger, as no one had many resources to feed and raise an extra child. Carla Lessing spent the years in Holland, most of the time hidden by a large Christian family.

The second and third parts of the book discuss the aftermath of all "hidden children's" lives. Even children who never saw any Jews beaten or harmed because of their hiding, suffered psychologically from the knowledge and fear of it and suffered physically, mentally, and emotionally at the hands of relatives and parents who survived and returned to reclaim them from the hiders. Amazingly, hidden children were not known as an existing population of survivors to the world and were not acknowledged among other Holocaust survivors. It is only since 1991 that the hidden children of WWII were given a voice as they began to gather in conferences in NY City. Rosen documents here the long, rocky path some hidden children traveled to begin and further the healing process.

Since reading this book, I've seen reviews of others saying the author's telling is cold or emotionless. I don't think this is really the case. No, it is not absolutely gripping as other Holocaust stories have been, but Rosen does a good job of detailing the hidden children's experiences and bringing this overlooked group of survivors' stories to light. Two-thirds of the book is more of a presentation of how the hidden children's lives carried on and how their stories were brought into the history of the Holocaust as we know it. I would say this would need as much an informational approach than anything.

Have you heard of the Holocaust survivors who were "hidden children"?

15 comments:

  1. I have never heard the term "hidden children" before. Very interesting. My grandmother survived the great famine in 1930's Soviet Kazakhstan while her whole family died. She was raised in an orphanage. Maybe that's why these stories still feel close to me. I'll look the book up.

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    1. Wow, what a woman. I can't even imagine.

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  2. My grandmother also survived WWII - her family lived in Soviet Belarus, which was known for its strong partisan movement. Her dad was a partisan (used to be a school teacher in real life before), and when the Germans found out about it, they burnt down the whole house where the family was living. Everybody could escape, but when the war was over, the family literally had to live in the ashes...
    WWII was horrible and hard, but the post-war period, which lasted years and years, was as hard - people sometimes forget about it...

    I will definitely search for the book - I take the war stories so closely to heart!

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    1. Those partisan movements were pretty fierce, sabotaging Nazi plans. Strong people.

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    2. Wow, just wow. What amazing people. I do think we forget about the postwar years too. This book covers that postwar period, but mostly with the survivors who moved to America, so we don't see the war tone areas postwar as much.

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  3. I've heard of hidden children as I've read a lot of Holocaust books, but this is a new book to me. I'm pretty fascinated by the concept of hidden children. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

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  4. I hadn't heard of hidden children. This sounds like a fascinating book. I have read about the concentration camp survivors and am now reading Unbroken from the soldiers perspective. But this is a unique perspective i hadnt considered yet. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Me neither, and I feel like I should've thought of it. Of course some hid and made it, but they were considered lucky it seems. But living in such fear will tear you apart. And many had other issues like abuse, because they were basically captives.

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  5. What a difficult (but important) read. Sometimes I prefer when books like this prompt others to say it's a little "cold" because, I don't like feeling like my emotions are being exploited... the content alone is enough, if that makes sense.

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  6. This sounds like a very interesting and probably very depressing read. I hate reading books about bad things happening to children and it's hard to imagine an event that it would be harder to live through than the holocaust. It's terrible to think of even children who simply lived through the terror of the times being negatively impacted, perhaps for the rest of their lives.

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    1. It's different than most Holocaust stories, but hard to explain. Still sad cause, like you said, children. But the second half is more informational, so that works on my mind differently than the pure pathos of their life stories.

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  7. I also haven't heard of the hidden children before, but as you know I love stories about WWII/Holocaust. It's hard to pass up on reading about that, so this is definitely something I'd want to read.

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    1. I'm hoping to find more written about it. It would be a good topic for new WWII fiction.

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