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Bo, Jenny, and I

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Bo, Jenny, and I

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Bo, Jenny, and I
(Jews in Space and Time)
By Huguette Herrmann
Academic Studies Press, Boston: 2012
ISBN: 978-1-936235-73-5

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - June 20, 2012

Bo, Jenny, and I is a unique coming of age tale and a Holocaust memoir combined. This book is divided into two parts. The first part chronicles Huguette Herrmann's early childhood in Belgium and her eccentric family life. The second part of this book details Herrmann's adolescence in England. Raised by her mother (Jenny) and grandmother (Bo), Herrmann had anything but a traditional Jewish upbringing. Throughout this book, Herrmann provides an honest and astute overview of her family's history and her own upbringing.

Herrmann was born in Antwerp in 1928. Her mother was born in the same city in 1909. Her grandmother Bo, however, was born in Odessa and came to Belgium following a wave of programs. The male members of her family tended to make only brief appearances, dying young or running off, leaving the women of the family to cope as best they could. From this telling, they seemed to do better bereft of their men folk, than they did when they were around. In the first part of this memoir, Herrmann provides a detailed overview of what life was like in pre-war Antwerp, especially for Jews. She also documents the changes that occurred in the country as Nazism gained ascendency in Germany and eventually spilled over into Belgium.

In 1940, Hermann, her mother, and her grandmother, made a daring escape from Belgium. It took them thirteen days to journey from Antwerp to Britain. Her family was to spend the remainder of the war in England. This memoir chronicles her school days in England and how her family adapted to life there. This book takes the reader up to 1945, when she almost married Abe, an American service man. Along the way she explains what the family knew, and felt, about the Holocaust and Jewish life in England during the war. Overall, this book paints a unique portrait not only of one girl's experiences during the Holocaust, but also of what it was like to grow up in a nontraditional, Jewish family.

Bo, Jenny, and I begins with an extensive introduction by Jim Wald. This introductory essay provides an academic examination of the events that transpired in this memoir. This essay also provides essential background information, such as the number and status of Jews in Belgium before the war. This information helps put Herrmann's story into historical perspective and it also places Herrmann's story within the greater context of world events. The book concludes with an afterword by John McKenzie that chronicles how he met Herrmann and what the book meant for him.

From beginning to end, Bo, Jenny, and I is a fascinating book to read. It is not your typical Holocaust memoir, and as such it may be even more important than more traditional memoirs because it provides readers with a different vantage point from which to view the war - and its consequences. I highly recommend this book for inclusion in all public and private libraries.

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