By Vicky Bornstein
Docostory Ltd. 2010. Paperback. 285 pages.
As I have said in this magazine on more than one occasion, personal accounts of the Holocaust must be judged by different standards than those used to discuss other books. One does not “review”, “critique”, or (God forbid) “evaluate” a memoir of that period written by someone who went through it, who suffered its unspeakable horrors, and whose friends and family perished. A Holocaust memoir is not intended to be a display of the author’s writing ability or narrative style. It is, quite simply, a body of evidence and a testimony to events that young people need to know about—especially at a time of increasing Holocaust denial.
All Holocaust memoirs are immeasurably valuable, and it is of the utmost importance to set down as many as possible as soon as possible. Each of these accounts becomes a priceless document, part of the indisputable record of one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history.
That said, however, Vicky Bornstein’s recently published My Many Lives is of particular interest in that it encompasses so many different kinds of Holocaust experiences, all of which the author lived through as a child and adolescent. Of additional interest is her chronicle of life after the Holocaust, down to the present day. The author says, “I was a happy Jewish child in Poland, a Jewish schoolgirl under Soviet Russian rule, a hunted Jew under Nazi rule, a Russian peasant recruited to a slave labor force, a German family’s house maid, a prisoner of war detained in an American military prison, a refugee in Paris, an American teenager schoolgirl in Manhattan and, finally, an Israeli wife, mother and grandmother.”
Events in the book are recounted in detail, the writing style is skillful and lucid, and the compelling nature of the story had me reading the whole 285 pages in two sittings. My Many Lives is thus a Holocaust narrative that is valuable in its own right and has the added value of telling its story clearly and well.