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.


Richard Natale’s Cafe Eisenhower is a quick, endearing read

cafeCafé Eisenhower is a heartwarming story of life after loss, and the extremes one sometimes goes to in order to move on. After the love of his life dies, Matthew Robins inherits an apartment and a business in Eastern Europe from a distant great uncle whom he’s never met. Deciding that this is the change he needs in his bleak life of mourning, he sets off on an incredible journey where he discovers that he and his long lost uncle have more in common than Matthew ever imagined.

Richard Natale crafts a tale that is rich in personalities, culture, and family, no matter how anti-nuclear or dysfunctional that family may be. He made me laugh out loud seconds after I felt like crying. Switching between the present and the past which Matthew discovers in some old notebooks of his uncle’s, Natale slowly unwraps a secret that has been hidden for almost half a century. While some of the notebook scenes felt dry and a bit detached in the style in which they are conveyed, the rest of the story more than made up for it with great personalities and friendships that endure despite distance and deceit.

The Last Jew of Treblinka

Treblinka was a death camp of the Nazi regime during World War II. It was a place of extermination for Jews or anyone else deemed “unworthy” under Hitler’s diabolical reign. A living hell where the incinerator fires burn day and night in effort to destroy the bodies of all those who were murdered in the gas chambers of Treblinka.

From the depths of this unimaginable hell, comes the story of Chil Rajchman, a Jew sent to Treblinka who escaped the gas chamber because able-bodied men were needed to keep the camp running. To cut the hair from the heads of those headed to the gas chambers, to pull gold fillings from the teeth of the dead, to bury the bodies and then later dig them up and burn them and too many other atrocious acts to name.

Very few prisoners escaped Treblinka and Rajchman’s is one of only a few known survivor’s accounts of the Nazi war crimes that were committed at Treblinka. His brief memoir is a horrifying truth of what really occurred at the death camp. His factual description, written with no emotion, no drama, like reciting the dictionary, makes the book all the more haunting and terrible and acts as evidence of the numbness that was required just to survive another day, another hour, another minute at Treblinka. The hell he lived through is inconceivable. I don’t think anyone can truly comprehend the horror of surviving in the death camp and living with the memories afterwards. And perhaps that is why the memoir ends so abruptly with no account of what Rajchman’s life was like after the war.

The Last Jew of Treblinka doesn’t take long to read, but it is time well spent.  The holocaust is the blackest mark on the history of civilization, and personal accounts like Rajchman’s should be shared so that the world never forgets and never allows such atrocities to take place again.