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Holocaust Book Review Essay, Research Paper

I Have Lived a Thousand Years Book Report

I Have Lived a Thousand Years, by Livia Bitton-Jackson, is a true account of the author’s life during the Holocaust. It tells the story of a young girl’s adolescence and how she managed to make it through the horrors of World War II as a Jew. It’s a story of persecution, death, torture, but most of all, of courage and the will to survive against all obstacles.

The main character is a young teenage girl by the name of Elli. Other important characters are her mother, father, and older brother Bubi. Elli has big dreams for her future. She loves school and excels at the top of her class. She loves writing poetry and aspires to be a great poet when she gets older. Her relationship with her mother is not one of love and friendship, yet she yearns for her mother to hug her and tell her she’s beautiful like she sees other mother’s doing with their daughters. She feels that she is a disappointment to her mother. Her relationship with her father, on the other hand, is quite different. She’s very close to him, and he believes that she is capable of anything. Elli looks up to her older brother, Bubi, the most. He has just left for school in Budapest when the story begins. Someday she wishes to be able to leave her small town, Somorja, in Czechoslovakia and move to Budapest to study at a prep school. Soon, however, the realities of World War II hit home for her and her dreams are crushed.

Stories of Hungarian persecution of Jews circulate throughout Elli’s town, but no one actually believes that it will make it that far. Late one night, Bubi returns from Budapest unannounced and tells his family that the city was invaded by the Germans, but no one believes him because the rest of the country was unaware of the development. He is sent back the next day, but soon after doing so, Elli’s father realizes that Bubi was right and is devastated for making him go back. Luckily, Bubi makes it back home for a second time. Over the course of the next few months, the Jews are stripped of everything and finally made to relocate to a ghetto, Nagymagyar. After spending a month there and getting used to the inhumane way of life, all the men are taken away to a Hungarian Forced Labor Camp. That is the last time Elli and her family ever see her father again. A few days later, all books, religious documents, ANYTHING, is burned, and the remaining males are made to shave their beards. A few days later they are taken to Ghetto Dunaszerdahely, where they are held for only a few days and then again liquidated and put into cattle cars. They arrive at Auschwitz four days later where Elli is told to lie about her age so that she won’t be separated from her mother. They are separated from Bubi and Elli’s aunt though. Then, they are made to strip naked, put “rags” for clothes on, take freezing cold showers, and all hair on their body is shaved off. After a little while, they are taken to another camp, Plazcow, where they stay for approximately two months and then are taken back to Auschwitz where numbers are tattooed on their arms. Elli must encourage her mother not to give up in order to survive for she begins to lose faith and hope. In the different camps, they meet people they know from back home or relatives of theirs or of their friends. At Aushwitz, Elli’s mother is injured and becomes paralyzed. She is then taken to the infirmary where Elli and some other girls must sneak her out so she can escape being killed. A selection is then held for workers in German factories. Elli’s is not selected but she escapes the group being prepared to be taken to gas chambers and is rejoined with her mother. At the factories, the people are astonished at the horrible sight of the women. They help Elli’s mother regain strength, and they give the women plenty of food and clothes. The fantasy, however, doesn’t last long, and soon the women are taken to Murhldorf, but it is already too crowded so they again are put into cattle cars and taken to Waldlager, a camp nestled in woods. There they find their brother and help him to stay alive by bringing him food everyday and throwing it across a barbed wire fence. At a certain point, the gates are opened and the men and women are able to converse with each other. Elli begins to regain hope for rescue but that soon diminishes when everyone is packed into cattle cars and taken through the countryside for days. The Germans stop the cars and act as if they are giving the prisoners food and water but they then start firing on them and most people are killed. Elli, her mother, and Bubi all survive, and the train continues on. The train then stops and everyone is told that they are free, but the US stages an attack and again most people are killed while trying to flee. Finally, in April, almost seven years after the story began, they are liberated and Elli, her mother, and Bubi return to their home in Somorja, which has been changed to Samorin. They await their father’s arrival but soon are told of their father’s death not long before liberation. News reaches them from their father’s brother in the US and preparations are made to move there. The story ends while the three of them stand on a boat, looking at the approaching Statue of Liberty.

The author’s purpose in telling her story, I believe, is to educate people about the true horrors of the Holocaust so that something like that will never happen again. She says in the “Forward,” “Reading my personal account I believe you will feel–you will know–that the Holocaust was neither a legend nor Hollywood fiction but a lesson for the future.” I also think it was her way of understanding what happened, and it provided a way of dealing with it. After all, she did always dream of being a writer. The author does pin point one thing as being the main theme of her story, and that is, “Never give up.” Although she says that her stories include all the themes associated with faith, hope, triumph, love, perseverance, loyalty, courage, mental abuse, death, torture, etc.

I really enjoyed this book. The stories of the Holocaust amaze me, and, although I don’t want to say I enjoy reading them, they do fascinate me. It makes you appreciate the things you have and realize that something that horrific really is possible and really did happen. The mental images that are created by the author are as real to life as possible. I felt as if I was walking through every moment of that part of Elli’s life with her.

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