Kathy Kacer’s To Look a Nazi in the Eye, reviewed for Netgalley

To me, this book is divided into two parts: the good and the bad, so I will divide my review into two parts.

The Good…

To Look a Nazi in the Eye is a very important book for young people to read. The horror of the Holocaust cannot be adequately described in a book review, but it stands as the most atrocious act of genocide in the history of the human race. Our younger generations need to understand the level of cruelty, hate, and inhumanity that fed into the Holocaust. They need to know about the Nazi extermination campaign and the amount of planning that went into trying to wipe out entire populations for not fitting Hitler’s “preferred profile” of an acceptable human being.

The chapters that contain testimony and personal statements from both the perpetrator and the victims of the Holocaust are very important. I found myself examining Oskar Groening’s testimony, dissecting every sentence and trying to find an ounce of remorse or shame. I saw no evidence of either, but readers will have to reach their own conclusions on that just as the survivors who listened made theirs.

Testimonies from the victims are the most important part of the book. It is essential that younger generations understand the brutality and suffering endured by Holocaust survivors. They were beaten, starved, experimented on. Some lost every living relative. The suffering did not end when the war did, and trials such as Groening’s are their only chance for even the tiniest slice of justice. The book could have been much improved with the inclusion of more survivor testimonies and input.

The Bad…

Jordana. Everything having to do with that self-serving narcissist was intolerable.

I found her to be overdramatic, overly emotional, and selfish. Instead of coming off as an intelligent young woman in college, she came across as a bratty teen getting something she didn’t deserve. I see no purpose in her attending the trial. All I could think as I read was that she had taken a seat at the trial that should have gone to someone who had survived a concentration camp or lost a loved one to the Holocaust.  Someone who had a true purpose and right to be there.

She was terribly naïve and her reactions to the people around her were childish and ridiculous. She admits to being bored at the trial, as if the entire affair is for her entertainment purposes. With her inflated sense of self-importance, she somehow managed to make the trial all about herself instead of the real focus: a Nazi who helped murder hundreds of thousands of people and the survivors who came in the hope of seeing justice done. Her personality was a distraction to the important court case and overshadowed the bigger message of this book.

So, my advice is read the book for the survivors. Read the book for the trial and its outcome, but skip as much of Jordana as possible.

A memoir of Auschwitz aimed at young readers but should be read by all

Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Buccieri – Tanglewood Publishing, 2011

Eva Mozes was ten years old when she and her family, including her identical twin Miriam, were taken by Nazis and put in a concentration camp. Eva and Miriam were saved solely because they were twins and, therefore, valuable to Dr. Mengele, the Nazi Angel of Death, who would perform medical experiments on them along with many other sets of twins held at Auschwitz. Both Eva and her sister suffered terribly from the injections they received at the hands of the Nazi doctors. Already starving, they were left sick and suffering with no medicine for cures. The girls survived on Eva’s will power and sheer pluck.

Surviving the Angel of Death is a detailed and tragic account of the atrocities Jewish people suffered under the sick and inhumane orders of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party. It is important for young people to learn of the torture, suffering, and loss that Jews and others were forced to endure with the rise of the Nazi political party and Hitler’s mission to exterminate those he deemed unworthy of the “master race.” This book is a great source for bringing the past to children of the present. Eva Mozes Kor does an excellent job of explaining terms in a way that makes the meanings clear for young readers. Told from her point of view, she takes the readers along with her on her terrible journey and educates them along the way about war, hate, the struggle to survive, and the healing power of forgiveness. She says, “Anger and hate are seeds that germinate war. Forgiveness is a seed of peace. It is the ultimate act of self-healing.”

This book is highly recommended for young readers.