No Time for Patience: My Road from Kaunas to Jerusalem

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9781557043863: No Time for Patience: My Road from Kaunas to Jerusalem
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Until the age of fourteen, Zev Birgerenjoyed an idyllic childhood growing upin Kaunas, a flourishing city of mostlyprogressive Jews in Lithuania. His father held asecure job as an engineer, his mother was warmand loving, and he remembers many blissfulafternoons spent playing in the family’s gardenafter Hebrew school.

Inspired by Zionist writers, young Zev and hisfriends firmly believed in the need to establish ahomeland for Jews. They could not have knownat the time how urgent that need would become intheir own lives. In 1940, the Russian army, then ayear later the German Nazi machine, invadedLithuania. The Birgers, along with all the otherJews in the area, were forced into the ghetto innearby Slobidka.

In simple but powerful prose, Zev describes hisfamily’s efforts to survive in this ghetto,including being discovered by the SS in a cellarhideaway as gunfire sounded from theapproaching front. In 1944, the Birgers weredeported to the Dachau/Kaufering concentrationcamp, where Zev was forced into heavy labor inan underground arms factory. He was the onlymember of his family to survive.

In this brief but moving story, many ofthe atrocities of ghetto and camp life as they wereexperienced by a teenaged boy come to light: thelast moment he saw his mother’s face as she wastaken away; the Children’s Atkion in 1944, duringwhich more than two thousand children wererounded up and murdered; the rampant starvationand disease around him. But there were alsomoments of light: a compassionate doctor whospared the boy when he was sick, and numerousbrushes with death that left him, astonishingly,alive.

Zev credits his stubborn nature, sheer will, andgood luck for allowing him to outwit his oppressorson so many occasions and survive untilliberation in 1945. The physical and mentalstrength that saw him through the terrible yearswould serve him years later when he becameinvolved in the establishment of the State of Israeland a driving force behind the publishing andprinting industry in his young country. As a manof books, of language and literature, of cinemaand theater, Zev Birger has always supporteddiversity in Israel’s cultural life. His gift ofbringing people together is a source of inspirationfor young and old everywhere. His story is atestament to hope, survival, and accomplishment.

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About the Author:

Zev Birger has been thedirector of the JerusalemInternational Book Fair forover fifteen years. Among otherpositions he has held in Israelare director of Light Industries,deputy director general of theMinistry of Commerce andIndustry, executive director ofthe Economic Council onPrinting and Publishing, and head of the Israeli FilmCenter. For several years, he lived in France and washead of the Paris office of International CreativeManagement/Film Marketing. He lives with his wife,Trudi, in Jerusalem, and has three sons and ninegrandchildren.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Noteworthy but unremarkable as Holocaust memoirs go. Birger served in the Israeli government in important commercial posts, including directing the Jerusalem International Book Fair and the Economic Council on Printing and Publishing. This book industry background, like the foreword by exprime minister Shimon Peres, only establishes Birgers love of books, not his credentials to write one. Normally, description of the unreal Holocaust setting can compensate for literary shortcomings, but the language here is too often stilted: ``a very small number of mothers had managed to save their offspring.'' Instead of a dramatic night watch for Liberation, Birger only notes that ``for a while, we had been able to observe that something was wrong with the Germans. A post-liberation highlight was meeting General Patton and explaining why he preferred fighting for Jewish Palestine to resettlement in the United States. From his youth in Lithuania fighting anti-Semites to his underground activities in the Kovno ghetto and the hellish stay in the Dachau extermination camp, it was Zionist dreams and Hebrew culture that kept Birger alive. The only survivor in his family, he constantly convinced himself that circumstances were bearable and that he must live through the hunger, disease, and back-breaking labor to exact the revenge of survival. On his slow emergence toward health, marriage, and normalcy, he decided that, while Germans denying knowledge and complicity with Hitler were liars, there were good and bad people of every nationality, so any racism would make him guilty of Nazism. Like the rest of the world, Birger remained silent about the Holocaust for decades (``I did not want to seem melodramatic'') until his son wrote from the tank corps during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, ``do not worry, we will winthere is no going back to Dachau.'' A writer so established in the publishing world still would have benefited from better editing and translation. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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9781557049230: No Time for Patience: My Road from Kaunas to Jerusalem - A Memoir of a Holocaust Survivor

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