Childhood by Jona Oberski

By Jona Oberski

A rediscovered masterpiece: an unblinking view of the Holocaust via a child’s eyes

Told from the viewpoint of a kid slowly awakening to the atrocities surrounding him, Childhood is a searing tale of the Holocaust that no reader will quickly fail to remember. As five-year-old Jona waits along with his parents to to migrate from Nazi-occupied Amsterdam to Palestine, they're woke up at evening, wear a teach, and finally interred within the camps at Bergen-Belsen. There, what at the beginning seems a simply dreary lifestyles quickly finds itself to be one of many worst horrors humanity has ever created. A triumph of heartrending readability and dispassionate amazement, Childhood stands tall along such monuments of Holocaust literature as The Diary of Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel’s evening, and Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz.

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50 While she was recovering in the hospital, memories that she had kept at bay for decades rushed back to her. She then began to write her “difficult” memoir in German, confident that her mother, Alma Hirschel, would never learn of it because, by then an old lady in America, she refused to take notice of all things German. However, weiter leben became an immediate literary sensation; it was promptly made widely available in translation all over Europe and Japan. indb 18 10/15/2013 5:45:51 PM who had learned about the book’s success through a cousin in Switzerland told Alma about it.

Her daughter had written a memoir that was not simply a story of Shoah survival, exile, and emigration, but also the story of her emotionally complex relationship with a mother who was both a proto-feminist model and a patriarchal mother: a heroic, determined, brave, strong woman who was simultaneously an overcritical, pathologically suspicious, neurotic parent. 52 Caroline Schaumann analyzed the differences between the two texts, the most glaring of which is found in the two versions of the epilogue.

First, a brief word about the organizing principle of this work. World War II and the genocide of the Jews have birthed myriad different stories with many common features but also with many unique variations. I thought it productive, therefore, to identify six broad master plots within the larger frame of the Shoah experience. Consequently, I created six chapters that explore, through literature, each permutation and its effects on the mother-daughter relationship according to the variable circumstances within the larger historical context.

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