Sara's Children : The Destruction of Chmielnik

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9781887901284: Sara's Children : The Destruction of Chmielnik

Full of love, joy and hope, Nathan Garfinkel's wedding portrait captures one of life's turning points. The occasion, however, was more momentous than anyone could ever imagine. Only six years earlier Nathan and his sisters, who surround him in the photograph, were reduced to living skeletons, victims of anti-Semitism that raged out of control during World War II. Nazi Germany and its sympathizers brutally murdered more than 6 million Jews across Europe, wiping out entire families and, in some cases, villages. Through sheer luck and by helping each other, the Garfinkels overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to evade death. Sara's Children records how the five siblings survived slave labor, starvation, beatings, typhus, exposure, and fatigue. The starkly written narrative relies heavily on the Garfinekls' own words and interviews with other survivors from their hometown of Chmielnik, Poland. The nonfiction work begins with what they lost: loving parents, an extended family, loyal friends, and a simple, but vibrant, lifestyle. Nonetheless, disturbing signs of anti-Semitism mar their happy childhood. Violence and hatred escalate as Germany razes Poland and sweeps Europe. Each chapter explodes with details of the Garfinkels' terrible ordeal. More than just an individual's memoir, Sara's Children expresses a community's destruction via heartbreaking testimonials from numerous other Holocaust survivors. Written documents from Germany, photographs from the late 1940s, and maps reinforce and verify their account. Places like Czestochowa, Kielce, and Skarzysko-Kamienna, where the Garfinkels were imprisoned and exploited, may not be as familiar to readers as Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, but they were just as deadly. With its vivid descriptions of lesser-known camps, Sara's Children sheds more light on Nazi Germany's vast network of evil. The Garfinkels provide a rare, uplifting footnote to an era of incomprehensible cruelty and unprecedented genocide. While their experience is rooted in the Holocaust, their story of rising above degradation and despair has universal appeal.

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From the Publisher:

`The fate of the Garfinkel family is written as every account on the Holocaust should be written: detailed and concrete.` -- Thomas Rahe, Historian at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp memorial in Germany.

`It is important to have depictions of the Nazi persecution written and published, as this is one of the weapons that can help prevent a repetition.` -- Simon Wiesenthal, founder of the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, Austria.

`This book demonstrates humane and Jewish values: faith in God, love of family, mutual help, and devotion. This work restores faith in mankind.` -- Felicja Karay, Holocaust survivor and scholar in Rishon Leziyon, Israel.

`Sara's Children relates the fascinating and exceptional story of five siblings who survived against all odds. . . A moving story of heroism, sacrifice, and determination.` -- Robert Berdahl, Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley.

`Suzan E. Hagstrom's account provides a window into the murky anguish of victims and survivors. This saga of family solidarity and love reveals one of the fragile rays of light that illuminated the darkness, and provides us a thin lifeline to a hope in a better tomorrow.` -- Robert Rozett, Director of the Yad Vashem Library, Jerusalem.

`I read Sara's Children and was moved as I always am when reading survivor testimony. They must be read, be it only out of respect for their courage during the darkest years in history.` -- Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, author, and professor at Boston University.

`This vivid rendering of the Garfinkels' personal miracles puts a human face on the enormity of the Holocaust, enabling the reader to better grasp its stark horror.` -- S.J. Usprich, law professor, University of Western Ontario, Canada.

`The astonishing result of years of research on three continents.` -- Tess Wise, Chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Central Florida.

`A compelling and absorbing report from hell, a unique and valuable contribution.` -- David Wyman, professor emeritus, University of Massachusetts and author of The Abandonment of the Jews.

`The story of a miracle.` -- Franklin H. Littell, President of the Philadelphia Center on the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights.

`Suzy Hagstrom has captured fire and raw emotion so that readers will `Never forget!` She focuses on one tight-knit family to help comprehend the incomprehensible.` -- Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, Congregation Beth Am in Longwood, Florida.

`A riveting account. Must reading for anyone interested in a close-up view of a human disaster of unprecedented proportions.` -- Bruce Pauley, history professor at the University of Central Florida.

`With journalistic flair, the author weaves personal testimonials with accounts from friends, acquaintances, other prisoners and supports it with library and field research.` -- Zev Garber, professor at Los Angeles Valley College and editor of Studies in Shoah.

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