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Review: A Teenager in Hitler’s Death Camps

August 20, 2009

A Teenager in Hitlers Death Camps

When Benny Grünfeld was sixteen years old and living with his family in their native city of Kolozsvar, Hungary,  the country was invaded by Nazi Germany.  He and other Jews were losing more and more of their rights on what seemed like a daily basis.  About a month after the invasion, he and all the other Jews in his neighborhood were told to “be out on the street in exactly one hour.”  They were told to bring the things they needed for life at a camp, “but only what you can carry.”

Benny and his family were taken to an old brick factory outside of town, where they stayed for a few weeks.  Then the true nightmare began.  Everyone from the camp was loaded onto a train and taken to a concentration camp.  Most of Benny’s family did not survive the horrors of the concentration camps, but remarkably, he and his brother Herman, not only survived, but managed to stay together in three different camps – Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dora-Mitelbau and Bergen-Belsen.

A Teenager in Hitler’s Death Camps by Benny Grünfeld is the true story of how two teenage brothers managed to survive the Nazi death camps by using their wits and their skills.  I’ve read several other stories of surviving the atrocities of the concentration camps, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one told from a teenager’s perspective.  This book is gut wrenching and heartbreaking.  As I read it I couldn’t help but wonder how individuals can be so cruel to other human beings.  I also wondered how young people could survive these camps and go on to live “normal” lives.  Of course, Benny tells of several events that occurred that still haunt him to this day.  This book is geared to middle school and high school students, but it affected me deeply – moving me to tears on more than one occasion.  I don’t think it’s possible to read this book without being affected by it.

The book is bound nicely and printed on high quality, glossy paper and is filled with drawings by the author and photographs.  It also provides some historical background on the Holocaust as well as important dates and a glossary of terms.    Benny Grünfeld is married and has three children and eleven grandchildren.  He lives in Sweden and now that he’s retired, he visits schools to share his experiences with students.

Review copy provided by BenBella Books.

This is my 7th book for the World War II Challenge.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2009 6:20 am

    Wow, Kathy, this sounds like a difficult but inspiring book. It is amazing that there are children lived through these camps and went on to live “normal” lives as productuve members of society. An experience like this would change, to the very core, the person you are I would think. I find it very difficult to read books about abuse, neglect and terror suffered by children/young adults but this book sounds worth reading. It’s good that it is geared towards young people who can have a tendency to be a little self-involved and apathetic. It certainly gives them a different perspective on life.
    Thank you for your review!

  2. August 20, 2009 6:33 am

    Sounds like a very interesting book. One of those hard to read but nevertheless fascinating books. I am always so amazed at the things that people can do to other people, and what people are able to endure.

  3. August 20, 2009 6:57 am

    These concentration camp books always freak me out, but I cannot help being attracted to them. This one sounds good.

  4. August 20, 2009 7:36 am

    I too find it very difficult to read a World War themed story. I have had this thing since Anne Frank ,which I read in School .

    But survival stories are always a source of hope that , good things can happen.

    Nice review.

  5. August 20, 2009 7:41 am

    A heartbreaking story for all but I’m glad it is geared to middle and high schoolers. I would not want this part of our human history to be lost. We must remember that people are capable of inhumane treatment of others.

  6. August 20, 2009 8:02 am

    Sounds very emotional. I think it’s so important to keep these stories alive — especially the firsthand accounts.

  7. August 20, 2009 9:08 am

    It says something that a book touched you this way. It sounds like a very interesting book but not an easy read by any means. I love how heartfelt your review was!

  8. August 20, 2009 9:13 am

    These stories must be the toughest to write and read. I cannot imagine being a teenager in a concentration camp, surviving it, and then leading a normal life. That takes great perseverance.

  9. August 20, 2009 9:23 am

    Thanks for the review Kathy, this sounds like an amazing book. To think that these brothers not only survived, but were even able to stick together during this ordeal is a miracle.

  10. August 20, 2009 10:09 am

    What’s amazing is that he and his brother were able to stay together. Almost unheard of during this horrific time period. I think this book sounds wonderful and I’m definitely going to be reading this one.

  11. August 20, 2009 10:15 am

    What a great review. This sounds like a book everyone should read.

  12. August 20, 2009 11:08 am

    People who survived just amaze me. I’m convinced I’d be dead within the hour. I’m really glad there are getting to be more YA books on this topic.

  13. August 20, 2009 11:53 am

    Survival stories really give you hope. This book sounds like a must read for everyone.

  14. justicejenniferreads permalink
    August 20, 2009 12:23 pm

    This sounds like an amazing and inspiring book. Everyone should read at least one Holocaust survival story in their lives. It’s so important to know that piece of history and realize how atrocious it was. When I was in high school, I read Night by Ellie Wiesel and that book has stuck with me ever since. The emotion, the horror, the sense of loss and forlornness stick with you – and then the inspirational fact that they survived to share their experiences. Thanks for sharing a wonderful review!

  15. Carol permalink
    August 20, 2009 12:24 pm

    Sounds like a really good book, but just too tough for me. Sounds like a good book for teens, though, since we seldom hear of the teenagers’ experiences in the camps.

  16. August 20, 2009 2:03 pm

    You should watch the movie Europa, Europa. It’s about a teen who pretends not to be Jewish and is made to join the Hitler Youth. Crazy but true!

  17. August 20, 2009 2:33 pm

    Boy…there are so many books lately on this painful subject. (the cover is really something 😦

  18. August 20, 2009 2:41 pm

    Such books are so difficult emotionally to read, but they are such an important reminder of a very dark time in our history. Thanks for a lovely review.

  19. August 20, 2009 3:25 pm

    These stories need to be published so we never forget. Humans can be so cruel, beyond comprehension.
    Excellent review Bermuda!

  20. August 20, 2009 7:38 pm

    Oh, it does sound heartbreaking 😦 But I agree that we need to keep telling these stories.

  21. August 20, 2009 7:53 pm

    What a wonderful review. I had never heard of this book before, but am now interested.

  22. August 20, 2009 9:44 pm

    I have always had a fascination with the events of the Holocaust. This sounds like a book that I would love to read. These stories need to be told!

    Great review!

  23. August 20, 2009 9:54 pm

    Sounds like an incredible, moving read. Thanks for the great review!

  24. August 20, 2009 10:56 pm

    This must have been a challenging read. I don’t know if I would have it in me to read it, and then to go through these thoughts again to write a review.

  25. August 20, 2009 11:05 pm

    It sounds like this would be a hard one to read but all books on this topic are but it’s still so important to keep these stories alive. I love books that can affect me deeply and leave an impression on me. Thanks for the great review of this one Kathy.

  26. stacybuckeye permalink
    August 21, 2009 12:14 am

    This sounds incredible! It is such an important time in the history of the world and we all need to be reminded now and again. Thanks for the great review.

  27. August 21, 2009 1:05 pm

    Wow. I definitely want to read this one, however difficult the subject might be. I always feel a connection to the subject; my grand-mother on my father’s side arrived here when she was a young woman to escape what was going on in Poland; she was lucky, in a way, but she did lose many family and friends. Thank you for this review, I will have to get this one.

  28. August 21, 2009 3:47 pm

    It’s so important to read of different perspectives from the Holocaust and a teenagers view is vital.
    Even though the Holocaust is hard to read about it’s so important that we not forgot these atrocities. I will be looking for a copy of this book. Thanks for reviewing this Kathy.

  29. August 21, 2009 7:00 pm

    Sounds like a rewarding read even if a bit tough to get through. I enjoyed your review!

  30. August 22, 2009 12:16 am

    I’m heading over to my library website right now to see if they have this one. Thanks for letting me know about it. I have to read it now.

  31. August 22, 2009 7:27 am

    This sounds like one that teenagers should really read, in order to realise how lucky they are. I don’t think teenagers read enough to appreciate how easy they have it in certain countries.

  32. August 22, 2009 4:12 pm

    What an amazing story. It does seem to defeat the odds when families were able to stay together in some way.

  33. August 23, 2009 9:07 am

    I’ve read a few death camp (all over, not just Nazi) stories from teen perspectives and they’re always moving. This looks really good.

  34. August 23, 2009 10:49 am

    Wow! I want to read this book (and to have my older kids read it). I may end up reading more childrens/YA books for the WWII challenge … this is one I’m adding to my list.

  35. August 23, 2009 5:46 pm

    This one sounds fantastic. Great review.

  36. August 31, 2009 1:51 pm

    I definitely will have to read this one at some point, but you knew I was going to say that. I’ll get this up on War Through the Generations soon.


  37. September 6, 2009 5:39 pm

    Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I’m going to look and see if I can find it.

  38. December 21, 2009 6:03 am

    We posted your review on War Through the Generations.


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