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Child of War

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Child of War

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Child of War
By Nachman Seltzer
As Told by Arye Leibish Friedman
Artscroll History Series
Mesorah Publications, New York: 2009
ISBN 10: 1-4226-0886-7
ISBN 13: 978-1-4226-0886-9

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - March 30, 2009

There have been many memoirs written by Holocaust survivors, but few of these memoirs have been written by those who were young children during this dark and terrible time. Child of War is one of the few children's memories that have been written. It is also unique because the child in questions came from an orthodox household. This book was written by Nachman Seltzer, as told by Arye Leibish Friedman, who was born in 1936, in Budapest, Hungary and lived in the Jewish section of the city, called Pest.

Child of War is an amazing and dramatic story of survival. Born into a Bobover Chassidic family, Reb Friedman's early childhood was noted by his happy family life and the close-knit Bobover community that was his second home. All this changed seemingly overnight. To survive the Nazi onslaught, his family had to take drastic actions. Little 'Leibish' was transformed from the scion of a noble Bobover family to Istvan Szombati, a short haired gentile whose 'father' was fighting with the Nazis. This was all part of Operation Aryan, a program which supplied false identity papers to countless Jews, identity papers that listed them as non-Jews and offered them at least a chance at survival.

Child of War is not just a recounting of one little boy's experiences during the Holocaust. It is also the story of Reb Friedman's family and of his Aunt Irene who risked everything to save his young sister Suzi, after her hiding place in a nearby convent was discovered and she was sent to the ghetto in Budapest to await transportation to Auschwitz. It is the story of his parents and the drastic steps that they took to protect their children, themselves, and everyone else that they could. It is the story of the numerous bachurim who secured false papers with which to try to flee to Romania. It is also the story of the greater Jewish community in Budapest, and in particular of the active role that the Bobover members took to protect themselves and their fellow Jews. Most important, while there is much sadness chronicled in this book, the overriding sense that I came away with from my reading it is a story about miracles, faith, and how HaShem can and will support you through even the most trying of circumstances.

I found Child of War to be a mesmerizing book to read. Seltzer's writing is graceful and you feel as if you are looking at the events being recounted directly through Little Leibish's own eyes. This book should be read by anyone seeking to read a life-affirming memoir, as well as for those interested in learning about the unique history of the Holocaust in Hungary - including the Glass House, the Kastner train that took it Jewish riders to safety in Switzerland via Bergen-Belsen, the massive Operation Aryan forgery program, the Allied bombing of Budapest, and the Russian 'Liberation' of the city. Well illustrated, Child of War also provides a unique glimpse into Jewish communal life in Budapest before and during the war.

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