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Determined: The Story of Holocaust Survivor Avraham Perlmutter

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Determined: The Story of Holocaust Survivor Avraham Perlmutter

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Determined: The Story of Holocaust Survivor Avraham Perlmutter
By A. Avraham Perlmutter, Ph.D.
Mascherato Publishing, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-9379-4509-1

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - January 6, 2015

Determined: The Story of Holocaust Survivor Avraham Perlmutter, by A. Avraham Perlmutter, Ph.D., is more than just a holocaust memoir, it is also the story of a life well lived...

In January 1939, eleven-year-old Avraham "Av" and his fourteen-year-old sister, Dorothea "Thea" boarded a kindertransport bound for the Netherlands. Their parents sent them on the train to escape the Nazi onslaught that had descended upon their Austrian homeland. This narrative chronicles Av's experiences in the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent those of his sister. On the surface, Av and Thea were two of the lucky ones. They had managed to escape from the clutches of the Nazis and after some time in various refugee camps, Av was sent on to live with relatives and Thea was sent to Loosdrecht Youth Aliyah Center to prepare for her eventual immigration to Israel. Not long after they had left for the Netherlands, their parents had made a daring escape from Austria and eventually made their way to British Palestine. They were working on making arrangements to have Av and Thea join them there, but on May 10, 1940 the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and the children were forced to go into hiding.

Throughout the section of this book dealing with the holocaust, Perlmutter recounts how he and his sister were aided by countless people who put their lives at risk to help them, including Johan (Joop) Gerard Westerweel. Sometimes Av and Thea found themselves hiding in the same home, but more often they were separated. Throughout the war, Av had repeated narrow escapes where he was almost captured by the Nazis. A couple of times he was arrested by the Nazis, but managed to escape, once with the aid of some Dutch policemen who turned a blind eye to him as he slipped away from his Nazi captures. Throughout it all, Perlmutter highlights the goodness in the people he met, some who were actively working with the underground to hide Jews, and others simply random people who he happened to meet who offered him shelter and aid and whatever assistance that they could to help keep him from falling into the clutches of the Nazis.

Rather than focusing on the darker moments of his teenage years, Perlmutter uses this book to highlight the kindness and generosity he experienced during the war, and the multiple miracles that allowed him to survive the war virtually unscathed. His sister was not as fortunate. However, despite being captured and spending time in Westerbork, Auschwitz, and Birkenau, as well as enduring a forced death march, Thea survived and went on lead a full life and raise a family.

While the first part of this book deals with Perlmutter's experiences during the war, the rest of the book concentrates on what happened after the war. How, despite never being given the opportunity to go to high school, he managed to enroll in university and how he eventually went on to earn a doctorate in mechanical engineering. He details how he made his way to Palestine after the war and fought in Israel's War of Independence. How he married, started a family, started his own business, and basically went on to lead a rich and fulfilled life, proving that he did not let the events of the Holocaust crush him. Yes, it did put stumbling blocks in his way, but with determination and a will to reach his dreams, he succeeded in not only surviving, but thriving.

By every modern standard, despite the horrors of his younger life, Av made a tremendous success of his life. Most important, as this book illustrates, throughout it all, Av never forgot the countless Dutch people who risked their lives to help save him and other Jews during the war. Many of these righteous gentiles payed the ultimate price for their good deeds and where murdered by the Nazis. In this book, Av pays homage to these good people and he has proven, by his life, and actions, that he made good use of the gift of life that they gave him.

"Determined: The Story of Holocaust Survivor Avraham Perlmutter" is an uplifting memoir that provides a unique perspective on the experience of Jewish refugees in Holland during the Holocaust.

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