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Echoes from the HolocaustEchoes from the Holocaust

A Memoir

Mira Ryczke Kimmelman

Narrated by Susan Marlowe

Approximately 6 hours

Unabridged


Downloadable edition:

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Book published by University of Tennessee Press


“During the most difficult times of World War II,” Mira Kimmelman writes, “I wondered whether the world really knew what was happening to us. I lived in total isolation, not knowing what was taking place outside the ghetto gates, outside the barbed wires of concentration camps. After the war, would anyone ever believe my experiences?” Kimmelman had no way of preserving her experiences on paper while they happened, but she trained herself to remember. And now, as a survivor of the Holocaust, she has preserved her recollections for posterity in this powerful and moving book—one woman’s personal perspective on a terrible moment in human history.

The daughter of a Jewish seed exporter, the author was born Mira Ryczke in 1923 in a suburb of the Baltic seaport of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland). Her childhood was happy, and she learned to cherish her faith and heritage. Through the 1930s, Mira’s family remained in the Danzig area despite a changing political climate that was compelling many friends and neighbors to leave. With the Polish capitulation to Germany in the autumn of 1939, however, Mira and her family were forced from their home. In calm, straightforward prose—which makes her story all the more harrowing—Kimmelman recalls the horrors that befell her and those she loved. Sent to Auschwitz in 1944, she escaped the gas chambers by being selected for slave labor. Finally, as the tide of war turned against Germany, Mira was among those transported to Bergen-Belsen, where tens of thousands were dying from starvation, disease, and exposure. In April 1945, British troops liberated the camp, and Mira was eventually reunited with her father. Most of the other members of her family had perished.

In the closing chapters, Kimmelman describes her marriage, her subsequent life in the United States, and her visits to Israel and to the places in Europe where the events of her youth transpired. Even when confronted with the worst in humankind, she observes, she never lost hope or succumbed to despair. She concludes with an eloquent reminder: “If future generations fail to protect the truth, it vanishes.... Only by remembering the bitter lesson of Hitler’s legacy can we hope it will never be repeated. Teach it, tell it, read it.”

Mira Ryczke Kimmelman is a resident of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and lectures widely in schools about her experiences during the Holocaust.

REVIEWS:

“In 1939, 16-year-old Mira Ryczke was forced by Nazi troops to leave her childhood home in Poland for an uncertain future. In the next five and a half years, Ryczke, through the support of others, memories of her family and sheer luck, survived the Warsaw ghetto, three concentration camps and a death march. Her memoir is simply written and unflinchingly detailed: she recounts being tattooed for identification purposes; waking up in a freezing bunk to touch the cold hand of the girl next to her, who had died during the night; "composing" herself as she attempted to look strong enough to avoid being "selected for death." Ryczke (she married a fellow survivor, Max Kimmelman, in Bavaria and immigrated with him to the United States) decided to recount her life because the "dead cannot speak: they cannot be witnesses to the unspeakable horrors. I am their witness, and my years are numbered. I have to do it for them.”

Publishers Weekly

“This book has the now-familiar timbre of horror common to the growing number of memoirs of the Holocaust. Kimmelman, a Polish Jew, grew up in Danzig and fled to Warsaw in October 1939 at the start of World War II. From then until her liberation in April 1945, she spent time in three concentration camps and a ghetto. Twenty members of her family were killed by the Nazis; only her father survived. She writes of the terror and anguish, which included rats gorging themselves on the bodies of prisoners and dogs tearing live inmates to pieces. Yet a part of Kimmelman's memoir deals with a new life—a new love, a new family, and a new country. She was married in 1946 to a man who lost his first wife and daughter in the Holocaust, and they came to the U.S. in 1948. Not able to write while in the camps, Kimmelman trained herself to remember most of the events she experienced. The result is this compelling memoir.”

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