Fragments of Memory
From Kolin to Jerusalem
Revised and Expanded Edition
By Hana Greenfield
Gefen Publishing House: Jerusalem and New York, (2006) www.israelbooks.com
Reviewed by Simone Bonim - February 14, 2007
Fragments of Memory: From Kolin to Jerusalem is a Hana Greenfield's chilling, yet surprisingly uplifting and often intimate memoir of her experiences during the Holocaust, and how she has dealt with these experiences ever since. Born in Kolin, Czechoslovakia, the teenaged Greenfield was deported to the Terezin Ghetto (Theresienstadt) on June 13, 1942. In 1944 she was sent to the Auschwitz death camp, and then to Birkenau. She was later sent to Hamburg, Germany to work as a slave laborer, and eventually found herself in the disease ridden Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she was liberated by the British in January of 1946. She eventually made her way to England, and from there to Israel where she currently lives with her family.
Since her liberation, Greenfield has written numerous accounts of her experiences, the horrific events that she was a witness to, and about the children transported from the Bialystock Ghetto, in Poland to Terezin. In the Terezin Ghetto, Greenfield's mother began working with the children. When they were transported to Auschwitz, she traveled with them - and died with them in the gas chambers. There were 1,196 children in the Bialystock transport, and 53 adults, mostly doctors and nurses. They were all gassed upon their arrival at Auschwitz. In addition, she has written about how she came to terms with all the events she witnessed, the fate of her relatives, and mourning for the millions that were murdered.
Fragments of Memory is composed of short, unforgettable vignettes and essays, many of which have been previously published. In addition, this book was originally published in 1998. This new edition has been revised and greatly expanded, and includes an update on her search for information about the fate of the Bialystock children. It is also illustrated with personal photos, photos of the camps and memorials, historic documents and with reproductions of a variety of drawings and paintings that depict life within the Nazi death camp system - created by those that endured the evils depicted. These illustrations enhance the text, illustrated horrors that are too ghastly to depict adequately with words alone. Maps drawn by Sir Martin Gilbert are also included.
In the realm of Holocaust literature, Fragments of Memory is one of the most gripping and haunting memoirs that I've read. Greenfield strips away the facade of humanity that tempers so many memoirs and histories about the Holocaust, and shows it for what it was - a horrific, demeaning, and unconscionable event. Yet despite all the horrors, there are moments of hope in her narrative and Greenfield shows how she became more than the sum of her experiences. For example, she has worked hard to educate others about the need for tolerance and about the Holocaust.
Fragments of Memory should be required reading by all school children, and by anyone looking to learn more about the Holocaust and one woman's personal experiences within the maelstrom of hate fomented by the Nazis.
This book is available in English, Hebrew, German, Russian, Czech, and Turkish.
All But My Life, by Gerda Weissmann Klein.
This is Gerda Weissmann's memoir of the six years she spent under Nazi tyranny, during which she spent three years in Nazi forced labor camp. This story also recounts her liberation and her meeting with Kurt Klein, the young man who was to become her husband. All But My Life is a horrific and heart wrenching story, yet it is also surprising uplifting. It is a classic of Holocaust literature.
We Are Still Here, by Rebecca Liebermann Nissel.
Memoirs of a Child of Survivors - A series of essays that chronicles the history of five-generations of one family that concentrates on the experiences of the author's parents during the Holocaust and their life in post-war Austria.