Polish Holocaust survivors' trek a harrowing, heartfelt read
Toronto-based journalist Ella Burakowski is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. In this heartfelt book aimed at readers aged 14 to 18, but certainly enjoyable by those who are older, she puts into writing the collected oral history of how her mother's family, the Golds, survived the nightmare years in Nazi occupied Poland (1939-45).
In this labour of love, Burakowski reminds us the millions who perished were all individuals who died horrible deaths, and that those few who survived owed their lives to a fate no less arbitrary than that which led others to their death.
Some will see the parallels in Burakowski's family history with the more familiar story of Anne Frank, whose family hid for years in a secret annex in an Amsterdam building. The Franks depended on the goodness of others to keep them alive; they lived in fear someone would betray them, that the German occupiers would find them and a sure death would follow.
These were the fears the Golds faced; their story is one of perseverance, courage, ingenuity and luck. But they knew, as Anne Frank wrote in her diary, "There is nothing we can do but wait as calmly as we can until the misery comes to an end... the whole world waits; and there are many who wait for death."
10 young adult books worthy of adult readers
Grownups will also find that these nonfiction books aimed at young adults are worth a serious look.
For the Jewish Gold family of Pinczow, Poland, living with growing anti-semitism in the late 1930s went from tolerable to horrifying when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Suddenly, Leib and Hanna Gold and their three children found themselves in survival mode as the homes and businesses of Jews were burned and rumors of death camps mounted. Leib disappeared while searching for a hiding place for his family. Meanwhile, Hanna and the children fled the city through sewer tunnels and managed to spend the next 26 months in hiding in a farmer’s barn. “Hidden Gold” is based on the true story of the author’s mother.
Here’s an excerpt from Hidden Gold:
Book Review: Hidden Gold, A True Story Of The Holocaust
Review by Deborah Shatz
(EJNews) – Hidden Gold: A true story of the Holocaust is a suspenseful story of family love and survival in horrific conditions that takes place during the Nazi invasion of Poland from 1939-45. You may think from the title that the hidden gold is a precious coin or a family treasure. It is actually the surname of a family whose harrowing tale of love, luck, intuition and cunning enabled them to evade the Nazis by hiding in a cramped and squalor crawl space in rural Poland. The Gold family is the hidden Gold, in this true story of the Holocaust. Author Ella Burakowski skillfully brings their story to life on the pages of this gripping book.
Hanna and Leib Gold are a hard working and well off couple who have an idyllic lifestyle in the Polish town of Pinczow with their three children: Shoshana, Esther and 12 year old David. That all changes when Germany invades Poland in 1939 and the Jewish residents are forced out of their homes; from town to town neighbourhoods, businesses and schools are being destroyed. Leib is in the middle of making arrangements for his family’s safety when the Nazis arrive to round up the Jewish people in Pinczow for transport to the Treblinka death camp. He convinces Esther and the children to stay with a family friend and promises to join them the next day. When the next day arrives, Leib has vanished and Hanna and the children must find a safer refuge to avoid sure death.
So begins a true story of terror, suspense and deplorable conditions that lasts more than two years. In a place where everyone is afraid, neighbours turn against neighbours, gentiles betray Jews and Jews victimize each other hoping to survive the Holocaust.
Hidden Gold: A True Story of the Holocaust.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2015.
314 pp., trade pbk. & epub, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-927583-74-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-927583-75-3 (epub).
Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.
Review by Val Ken Lem.
They had been riding for quite a while, and Shoshana had spoken most of the way. She was determined to force Nessa to view her mother and siblings as real people who had suffered, just like her. If Shoshana could succeed in that, perhaps Nessa would break down and divulge what lay ahead. It would be easier for Nessa to betray her husband and the farmer, Hanosz, if she could relate to the Golds as human beings who had been victimized just like her. Shoshana needed to exploit Nessa's guilt.
"Nessa," she said, her voice dropping to a whisper. "I know you have something planned for us," she hesitated. "From your silence, I can only assume it's not good. The first words out of your mouth were Do you have money. It can't be money alone that you want, or you would have robbed us and left us by now. I know someone else must be directing this, Nessa. Is it the farmer you mentioned? What will happen to us when we get there? Tell me what this man has planned for us. Nessa, why can't you look at me?"
The Golds were a prosperous merchant family living in the Polish town Pinczòw. Shoshana and Esther, the elder children, helped their parents, Leib and Hanna, run two businesses. David, the only son and the youngest by nine years, was born in 1930. This novelization of the Gold family's experiences during the Second World War and their survival of the Holocaust begins with David's birth. As the last living member of the original family, David helped his niece, Ella Burakowski, reconstruct her family's story for this powerful narrative. Burakowski sprinkles Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and German words and phrases into the text, often followed immediately with the English translation, in order to give the story local colour and authenticity. A four-page glossary and several pages of relevant family and historical photographs appended to the novel remind the reader that the characters and events are true.
EXCERPT FROM ‘HIDDEN GOLD: A TRUE STORY OF THE HOLOCAUST’
EXCERPT: The Gold family seeks shelter from the Nazis, only to find themselves discarded and surrounded instead
Marian knew the lay of the land and was able to guide them unseen through the mountainous terrain. His own life depended on it as well.
The trek to Pilarski’s was uneventful. So much had happened in such a short span they were already losing track of time, but it was still morning on Oct. 7, 1942, when they made it to Pilarski’s farm.
“Hanna, you and the children stay there, and remain out of sight,” Marian said as he pointed to a wooded area. They all moved quickly into the brush. Hanna watched as Marian walked down the hill toward the lane that led to the farm. From their elevated vantage point, they could see the layout of the property. It was large, with a two-storey farmhouse. White horizontal fencing separated the home from the barn and stables. Hanna could see the leftover rows of potatoes that had not yet been harvested from the fields. Pigs roamed in their pens, and a few cows grazed in the distance.
Someone answered the door, but Hanna could not make out who it was. Marian disappeared into the house. It seemed like forever before there was any more movement at the farm, but finally Marian came out. He watched his feet as he climbed back up the hill, avoiding the fallen tree branches.
“Here’s the plan,” he said when he reached them.
Sophia L, Reviewer
I'm generally not a memoir person. But if I'm going to read a memoir (or even nonfiction), I'll choose anything about the Holocaust (I find that time period sadistically interesting). Hidden Gold deserves about as much praise as Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl.
Critter B, Librarian
Heartbreaking yet inspiring, a true account of a family's survival during one of the darkest periods in human history. Essential reading for young adults.
Diane l, Educator
True account of a family's survival during occupied Poland of the Nazi's.The perils they encountered, knowing who, if anyone to trust, in helping keep their identities hidden, was truly an amazing reading experience.
Tanya G, Reviewer
An inspiring story of courage and determination to prevail, surviving against all odds. A poignant memoir which uplifts and inspires while capturing for future generations a bleak moment in Modern History.