07 June 2016

Book Review: Fragments of Isabella by Isabella Leitner

fragments isabella holocaust jew

Goodreads description (x): 
On May 29, 1944, the day after Isabella Katz’s twenty-third birthday, she, her family, and all the Jews in the ghetto in Kisvárda, Hungary, were rounded up by Nazi storm troopers, packed into cattle cars, and deported to Auschwitz. There, Dr. Josef Mengele, the so-called Angel of Death, scrutinized the family and decided who would live—for a time—and who would die. Isabella and three of her sisters waged a daily battle to survive, giving one another strength, courage, and love, promising themselves that they would cheat the crematoriums and end each day alive.

My rating: 4 out of 5 hoots

owl rating

I believe I've it said before on this blog, but to reiterate, I am and have always been interested in war. I don't think I'll truly be able to grasp the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust, but learning about it and educating others—especially through literature—can be a great thing. 

When I was asked if I would like to read Fragments of Isabella, I agreed. Auschwitz was one of the worst concentration camps of the Holocaust, so to be able to read a memoir from someone who was there would be, I knew, raw and emotional. 

It is a short read, with short chapters, and even for the most part, short and concise sentences. 
This makes for a one-day read that is overall, powerful and touching. 

Josef Mengele is mentioned a few times, and I was astonished that the author actually came into contact with him. Of course it wouldn't be impossible, I just haven't read a memoir yet where the author spoke about actually being in close proximity with Mengele. There was just such indifference towards him, which was odd considering how he was notorious for being truly awful—even nicknamed the “Angel of Death.” Leitner was one tough cookie. Irma Grese was also briefly talked about and how she would choose specific women to be punished, mainly based on how attractive they were to her. 

Because the chapters are so short, sometimes the book confused me as to where the characters were physically at, and the events take place so quickly that it's hard to wrap your head around what exactly is going on all the time. Most of the time you can regain your footing, brush yourself off, and realize what it is Leitner is describing. But a few times, you're still left lost. 

I admit, Isabella Leitner's writing was a bit hard for me to read at first. I was enjoying the story, but not her too-short sentences or what seemed to me like almost apathetic emotional responses to the situations at hand. Trust me though when I say you need to read just a few more chapters—or even one more chapter—and you will read what I and others have read and thanked Leitner in our hearts for sharing. 

What gripped me almost more than what happened in the camps to the Jews, was what happened outside and around them when they walked the streets and passed by everyone. Leitner says of this:
  “But the Germans never saw us. Ask them. They never saw us. Come to think of it, they really didn't.” 

One of the saddest quotes I found was Leitner telling herself, “...I don't know yet how people live, I know only how they die.” The author and so many of those members of the Holocaust had to watch their family members be murdered. Be burned right in front of them. Be shot down. So for Isabella to have survived—how wonderful! But how painful, to carry all those memories for the rest of her life.

With that said, you must read what her husband has to say on her account in the epilogue.
It can be a small and terrible world.

*I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

No comments :

Post a Comment

Post a Comment