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A different approach to the Holocaust. Concentration Camps were not the major theme.

We Were the Lucky Ones - Georgia Lyn Hunter

We Were The Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter Author; Robert Fass, Kathleen Gati, narrators This novel is based on a family that miraculously survived intact, after suffering unspeakable hardship and danger beginning in 1939 with Hitler’s rise to power and continuing some years after the end of World War II. This family, like so many real families that experienced the horrors of the Holocaust, kept silent about their experiences, until generations later, when pressed for answers by a friend or relative. Flung to far corners of the world, they settled in any country that would have them; there they acclimated, learned the language and survived as productive members of the society, grateful for the opportunity given them, and dedicated to forgetting the nightmares of their past. This book came to be when a great-grandchild began to ask questions and discovered the truth of her ancestor’s past experiences in Europe; she decided to write this book based on her grandfather Addy’s life. This, then, is historic fiction at its core. Georgia Hunters’s affluent great-grandparents, Nehouma and Sol Kurc, lived in a place in Poland called Radom, a place like all others inhabited by Jews, a place in which Jews believed that common sense would prevail and no harm would come to them in the end. Often the reader has to suspend disbelief when faced with the possibilities awaiting the Kurc family, in the same way as they refused to believe the writing on the wall about what was about to befall them. Some of the unspeakable terror is indeed difficult to believe. Man’s inhumanity to man is, as always, unfathomable. When the war began, there were 30,000 Jews living in Radom. At the war’s end, fewer than three hundred survived. Those that returned were intact, but none were unscarred by their experiences over those previous 6 or so years. Considering the fact that such great numbers disappeared, it was also necessary to suspend disbelief when remembering that we have been told that those not victimized were unaware of what happened to those that were. The Kurc’s family was one of the few that did not lose a member, and one of the few that was not interned in a Concentration Camp and murdered. That part of the story is factual. Parents, siblings and children returned, but none of them resettled back in Radom. There were some Poles, Germans and others who were righteous; there were some members of the Church who were, as well. They helped the Jews survive, in spite of the extreme danger to themselves. It would seem that most were not righteous, however, judging from the number of victims that fell at the hands of the Axis. At times, I had the unhappy feeling that the author soft pedaled the idea of collaboration with the enemy and hard pedaled the idea of Jews who were soft and naïve, only able to survive because of their affluence and contacts, not necessarily their wits and their courage. She seemed to want to stress those that helped, and possibly, to overlook those that deliberately betrayed them, unless it was a fellow Jew. I hope, sincerely, that I am wrong. Whitewashing the horrors the victims suffered to make the reader believe that their enemies were not truly complicit in their brutal treatment, although they stood by in compliance, would be a disservice to those victims. Their suffering deserved 100% respect. Although fear for their own lives was considered a worthy reason to abandon the Jews to the Nazis, it would require the readers to suspend disbelief to ask them to believe that those who turned a blind eye or collaborated did not really know what was happening. There is simply no way for millions to disappear without anyone raising an eyebrow or a question, until it was too late to stop the momentum of the genocide. Most of those who looked away were afraid and self serving and didn’t care about what was happening as long as their own nests were well feathered, even if the feathers were taken from the nests of the Jews. They never questioned why these new found gifts befell them. They just enjoyed them. When the Jews returned, they even refused to return their property. I am sorry, but as a Jew, I cannot forget the selfish and hateful behavior of many hypocrites who still believe that way today. I often felt that the author made the Jews seem a bit self serving and spoiled, perhaps even a bit Pollyanna, making choices that should have gotten them killed but by accidents of fate, did not. Perhaps they were in shock and unable to grasp the horrors awaiting them, but Pollyanna, I don’t think so. It is true that those who survived had to be somewhat selfish, making hard choices that would possibly put others in danger, but they truly had no other rational choice. Their persecutors did, though, and still, they chose to be despicable sadists, murderers, and thieves. There is only worthy description of the Jews that survived, and that would be that of heroes, not cowards. They were forced to withstand unspeakable treatment by their monstrous enemies, enemies without any humanity, without moral conviction of any kind. This is a rare book; it speaks of Jews who survived largely outside the Concentration Camps, in enemy territory, using their intellect, intuition, bartering abilities and contacts to move from place to place, to save each other and protect each other. Although they were often betrayed by traitors, some of whom were Jews trying to save themselves, the survivors had the wherewithal to last just a bit longer than those less fit or financially able. In spite of weather, age, health and unknown dangers that awaited them, they soldiered on to freedom, soldiered on beyond all expectations. Only those that were truly lucky could survive. Victims had to depend on the kindness of others which often came at a price, rather than from the heart. Even after the war ended, there were those who were despicable enemies, who continued to steal from and murder Jews, who turned them away from their own property with veiled threats and not so veiled threats to their safety. The unpardonable behavior of the hateful people who conveniently claimed ignorance as they turned in their Jews, turned in those that were not pure Aryans, those ill and mentally unfit, stole their possessions and never gave a thought to where these victims had gone, has been glossed over by history, on the one hand to protect their image, and on the other to prevent further bloodshed, I imagine, but these people should not be called human, by any stretch of the imagination, because they had to know what was happening, and they, therefore, were complicit. People were being slaughtered and one of the sons seemed to be living it up in Ipanema, interested far too much in romance, almost unaware of the plight or not as concerned about the plight of his family, as he should have been. The inclusion of love scenes, perhaps to try and make some part of their lives seem normal, seemed very out of place. On the other hand, the women in the family seemed to shed their cloaks of helplessness when the need arose, often becoming heroic figures. Perhaps the written book would be better than the audio I heard. The female narrator exaggerated the accent too much and spoke far too slowly which often made the book overly long and the details far too time consuming. In addition, the author waxed too poetic, at times, which seemed inappropriate regarding the content. A story about the Holocaust, with or without Concentration Camp experience, is far too horrible to be treated as melodrama to create tension. The subject is tense enough. Some of the dialogue seemed too clichéd and trite; some was too mundane and unnecessary. I felt that there was not enough emphasis placed on the Jews in the Underground, those unsung heroes, and no mention was made of Israel’s beginning or of the war and the valiant effort of the Jews to save their homeland when the Arab countries attacked although the book could have extended into that time frame. I believe that the author was the product of the one intermarriage, between Addy (Adolf) and Caroline, and perhaps she was not as invested in the Jewish cause as a whole, but rather only in her ancestry. The book is interesting and worth reading, but the editor should have had a heavier hand.