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The Lost

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  3,063 ratings  ·  494 reviews
In this rich and riveting narrative, a writer's search for the truth behind his family's tragic past in World War II becomes a remarkably original epic—part memoir, part reportage, part mystery, and part scholarly detective work—that brilliantly explores the nature of time and memory, family and history.
ebook, 688 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2006)
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The two teenage girls at the right in the back row in this picture are my paternal grandmother and her sister. Their parents and grandfather are in the front row. The picture was taken around 1900. A few years later, my grandmother, rebellious and politically inclined, left the small town in Poland and came, alone, to the United States. She was one of the very few members of her family to escape the Holocaust.

Like many American Jews, I don't know precisely what happened to my relatives. Daniel
So, I just officially finished my book, The Lost, yesterday (big cheers for me!) and thought I’d let you know what I thought about it...I will start with what I didn’t like. It was long (500 pages – a lot for me at this point in my life!) and as I mentioned earlier a little slow at the beginning. There was a lot of detailed discussion on various stories of the Torah which was interesting at first but by the last 50 pages I had begun skipping over to go straight to the actual storyline. Overall, ...more
This is listed as being a “New York Times Bestseller.” One would think that I should have had my fill of Holocaust stories, but apparently not, as this one jumped into my hand at Borders even though I hadn’t known of its existence. It’s not an easy read. Mendelsohn never used one comma in a sentence where he could insert three or four. I was often lost in sentences wandering through parenthetical phrase after parenthetical phrase until I had to back up and take them out in turn in order to tack ...more
There may just be a vertical hierarchy in our popular understanding of the Holocaust. At the top, however uneasy, are the Survivors: it is through their testimony that we know to never forget. Their is also a measure of merit in having outwitted or simply survived the minatory machinations of the Nazis. below them are the victims, particularly present when the doltish ask "why they went like sheep, why they didn’t fight back, why they didn’t heed the signs in the 1930s?" Below that mound of evid ...more
My cousin, who I have never been close to, lent me The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million
on her recent visit to France. At the time, she had no idea how interested in this book I would be.

The memoir recounts Daniel Mendelsohn’s search for information about the lives and deaths of his great uncle and his family. His journey starts with only one sure fact: his Uncle Shmiel and family were killed during the Nazi occupation of eastern Poland (now Ukraine).

As a Ukraine-phile, I was particularly in
Kay McAdams
Aug 05, 2007 Kay McAdams rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody
This books takes patience and is not a quick read, but it is well worth the effort. The author makes fascinating use of the Torah to help us understand his journey into his family's past. It is a book that leaves you exhausted-- this wasn't easy to write, and I have great respect for that. The title suggests that it's about searching for the fate of 6 specific Holocaust victims, but it's about so much more than that-- memory, human nature, knowing and history, surviving after Surviving, family, ...more
The best thing I read last year. It took me many months to finish this book as I would get overwhelmed by the detail, but I always felt compelled to pick it back up after a breather and continue. This book made the holocaust real for me in a way nothing else, including the Washington D.C museum, has. Brilliant the way Mendelhsson addresses the vast scale of the holocaust while at the same time narrowing it down to individual people who are not heroes or villians, but a regular family like anyone ...more
This book is sad and beautiful and riveting. The story itself isn't unusual since the fate of this family was the fate of many European Jews in the Holocaust. But the author pursues the story with such loving care, and the uncovering of what happened is handled almost unbearably well. I also enjoyed how the author wove in philology/etymology and biblical reference. I loved it. I cried all over it. I forced it on my mother.
A friend of mine gave me her copy of this book, telling me I should read it because of the intimacy my own life has had in recent years to the Holocaust. My boyfriend's grandparents were both Holocaust survivors who emigrated to the US after the war.

The book focuses on one man's search to find out more about 'the lost,' six members of his family (an aunt, uncle, and four cousins) who perished in the war, but no one knows exactly how. He travels to multiple countries over several years interview
A beautifully written, evocative book. Dense, full of tangents, and telling the story of several generations across several continents.

Mendelsohn is the self-appointed family historian who, after an entire childhood of listening to his grandfather's stories, decides to find out what happened to the family members who were left out - his grandfather's brother, his wife, and their four daughters, who were "killed by the Nazis". With little more to go on (when he begins his search, he was unsure ev
Marianna Evenstein
Wow, what a moving read. This book totally reminded me of my own family history, and my own desire to re-connect with and reconstruct a world that has been almost completely lost with the generation of people who lived through the Holocaust. But this is not just another book about the Holocaust -- it's a book about the nature of memory and storytelling, about how our history determines who we are in the present and who we will become in the future. Nevertheless, I can imagine that this is not ne ...more
This is one of the most excruciatingly haunting books I've ever read. It is marvelously told, the story of Daniel Mendelsohn searching for details -- specifics! -- on how six members of his family were "killed by the Nazis" during the Holocaust -- "killed by the Nazis" being about the only information he started with. This is so much more than a detective story. It's an Odyssey. Mendelsohn is a classicist by profession, and his storytelling is a loving adaption (adoption?) of Homer. But it's als ...more
Rachel Brown
An American Jew's attempt to find out via research exactly what happened to six family members who were killed in the Holocaust.

Even for a Holocaust narrative, this is a particularly brutal story. It's not about the banality of evil or about people rationalizing genocide because they are only signing a paper rather than looking someone in the eye and killing them with their own hands. It's about ordinary people given permission to personally commit horrific acts of violence against people they'v
This combination memoir and report describes the author's attempt to discover what happened to his great-uncle and -aunt and their four daughters, who died in Poland in the Holocaust, and about whom very little was known (or at least spoken, until those who knew had died and it was too late to ask). Mendelsohn writes in a kind of Russian-dolls style, with narratives buried within narratives buried within other narratives, allowing his associations to carry him to one place and another. This is n ...more
This was a truly remarkable story of a search undertaken to find out about the lives of six family members killed during the Holocaust. It was an exhaustive search taking the author into Poland, Israel, Denmark, and Sweden trying to piece together what constituted his family and who really were these cousins and aunt and uncle of his. It was reverting on many levels and gave the reader the insight into how the Nazis not only killed these people but took away their identities. It was as if they n ...more
Reading this book was an utterly absorbing experience for me, and I recommend it highly. It's engrossing and personal and kept me fully engaged for several weeks. The narrative alone would be enough to make a good book; how the author used a few scant facts & clues from family stories plus a lot of careful investigation, to reconstruct the final days and months of his great-uncle and family in a then-Polish village. The father, a butcher, his four daughters and wife all were "lost" in the Ho ...more
K.A. Krisko
I read this twice in the last year. It has an interesting juxtaposition of biblical and philosophical argumentation with the author's experiences seeking information about his relatives who were lost in the holocaust in Poland. Thus, I learned a lot about Jewish culture and thought while I read, as well as being able to relate to the search. I particularly thought of this book in the summer of 2012, when my brother and I found the grave marker of a relative in a tiny, ancient cemetery in the Cze ...more
Just arrived from France through BM.

What happened to Shmiel Jäger, his wife Ester and their four beautiful girls? Emigrants to their relatives in America, they died at the beginning of the occupation of Galicia by the Germans denounced by their good Polish. Born in 1960, Daniel Mendelsohn, nephew of Shmiel has always doubted the official version, and from his childhood, began searching for the truth. This book is both the result 'of a life of inquiry, and the story of the investigation itself.

I enjoyed this book. Not so much in that it was a pleasure to read (it was slow, long winded and all around a little tough to finish), but more because it really made me question our past and the accuracy of those stories we've heard and held as true. I did not read this book for the Holocaust aspect - I think the underlying message is universal.

Mendelsohn was a little obsessive about trying to find information, but his story made me remember how easy it is to forget an entire life (and how easy
Jordana Horn Gordon
Everything a great nonfiction book should be: engaging, smart, beautifully written and deeply meaningful.
Jennifer Franz
This book will stay with me for quite a long time, of this I'm sure.

A friend sent this to me about a year ago, insisting that I would love it. It took me awhile to brace myself to enter in, given the subject matter.

It does get off to a slow start. However, once it gets going, it is so many things. Maddening, heartwarming, sorrowful, fascinating, spiritual, and flat-out amazing. When one considers the Holocaust, my main experiences were in a learning environment in school - so to take this journ
I would have given this 5 stars if only the author had used quotation marks!

Did the author think he's above quote marks, or did his editors talk him into this fiasco because it’s the latest "cool" trend? This stupid trend leads to complete reader confusion.

The author is searching for information about his six relatives who were killed in the Holocaust. He travels to Poland, Australia, and Sweden to interview elderly Holocaust survivors. It’s utterly engrossing…until he begins relating the inter
Richard Kramer
What's to think? It's to feel. This book is just like Mendelsohn's thrilling criticism, in which he wrestles to the ground something around which received opinion mercilessly swirls (phew! I didn't end with the adverb!) Mendelsohn is never a debunker, or a smartypants, but someone who insists on making the journey of discovery on his own. All his work is heroic, and he feels his way forward in the dark. The Lost of the title are both the endless millions in Europe and six of his very own, who ne ...more
From Bereishit to Vayeira, Mendelshohn weaves together Torah study, the Holocaust, a town in the Ukraine, the stories of the 48 surviving Jews of the 6,000 who lived in that town before the war, a history of a family who were among those 6,000 Jews and his personal history in a quest for understanding the human experience of suffering. The structure and the storytelling are brilliant, although the details are occasionally tedious. I was reminded of reading Bible passages of rules or lists of nam ...more
An American journalist sets out to discover what happened to his great uncle, great aunt and their four daughters in their village of Bolechow (in Poland then, Ukraine now) during the Holocaust. He's heard hearsay and bits and pieces of the story all his life from his grandfather (there were seven siblings who grew up in the town, but only Shmiel stayed) and other relatives, but no one's ever quite known what truly happened. The search takes him all around the world, visiting and interviewing su ...more
I wasn't looking for a book about the Holocaust, that most loaded word of words, especially here in Manhattan, where Jewish culture and arts surround and engage you like in no other place in America. But I was intrigued by the premise, the search for "six of six million"--Mendelsohn's great-uncle and his four daughters--who were "killed by the Nazis," according to family legend.

I usually have a hard time with most non-fiction books, my attention drifting after a few chapters, because they typic
This is the true story of one man’s search for six relatives lost in the Holocaust, sixty years later.

I liked the parallel of the story side-by-side with commentaries on the Torah. The sections on the Torah were dense and sometimes difficult to read, but they leant a more spiritual flare to the author’s search.

I wondered early on where his editor was, as run-on (and on and on) sentences were abundant throughout. I often had to go back to the beginning of the sentence to even remember what it wa
The story was really interesting. I loved reading the background, all the warm, funny stories about his family, particularly his grandparents, and enjoyed feeling that twinge of memory tat hearing other people describe their relatives inevitably brings. I read with horror, shock, anger, upset, disbelief, relief and warmth the stories of all the people he met along the way and felt glad to have done so and amazed at what people survived - although I knew about it before reading this, reading some ...more
I really liked this book. I nearly quit reading after 50 pages due the run on sentences and excessive use of punctuation. Some sentences are more than half a page in length and I found them difficult to read. Commas, dashes and parentheses are liberally used. I kept reading though because the premise had caught my interest.

Mendolsohn wrote the book after searching for his relatives killed during the holocaust. Because all of his family that stayed in Poland during WW2 were killed, he interviews
Both intricate and precise, intimate and broad-ranging, with layers underneath layers, a major accomplishment. Early on I was irked by the use of repetition and circularity but was richly rewarded once I had acclimated to the nonlinear loops of thought and exploration--which is not to say the book feels in any way disorderly or disorienting. The writer is a meticulous guide through the rigors and pathos of his search. The meta-textual analysis of Torah passages, which punctuates the chapters, wa ...more
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Coffee Talk: February 2014 BoM,Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million 41 23 Feb 24, 2014 08:43PM  
Great read 4 28 Dec 09, 2012 04:42AM  
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“Closeness can lead to emotions other than love. It's the ones who have been too intimate with you, lived in too close quarters, seen too much of your pain or envy or, perhaps more than anything, your shame, who, at the crucial moment, can be too easy to cut out, to exile, to expel, to kill off.” 12 likes
“As ingenious as this explanation is, it seems to me to miss entirely the emotional significance of the text- its beautiful and beautifully economical evocation of certain difficult feelings that most ordinary people, at least, are all too familiar with: searing regret for the past we must abandon, tragic longing for what must be left behind. (...) Still, perhaps that's the pagan, the Hellenist in me talking. (Rabbi Friedman, by contrast, cannot bring himself even to contemplate that what the people of Sodom intend to do to the two male angels, as they crowd around Lot's house at the beginning of the narrative, is to rape them, and interpretation blandly accepted by Rashi, who blithely points out thta if the Sodomites hadn't wanted sexual pleasure from the angels, Lot wouldn't have suggested, as he rather startingly does, that the Sodomites take his two daughter as subsitutes. But then, Rashi was French.)

It is this temperamental failure to understand Sodom in its own context, as an ancient metropolis of the Near East, as a site of sophisticated, even decadent delights and hyper-civilized beauties, that results in the commentator's inability to see the true meaning of the two crucial elements of this story: the angel's command to Lot's family not to turn and look back at the city they are fleeing, and the transformation of Lot's wife into a pillar of salt. For if you see Sodom as beautiful -which it will seem to be all the more so, no doubt, for having to be abandoned and lost forever, precisely the way in which, say, relatives who are dead are always somehow more beautiful and good than those who still live- then it seems clear that Lot and his family are commanded not to look back at it not as a punishment, but for a practical reason: because regret for what we have lost, for the pasts we have to abandon, often poisons any attempts to make a new life, which is what Lot and his family now must do, as Noah and his family once had to do, as indeed all those who survive awful annihilations must somehow do. This explanation, in turn, helps explain the form that the punishment of Lot's wife took- if indeed it was a punishment to begin with, which I personally do not believe it was, since to me it seems far more like a natural process, the inevitable outcome of her character. For those who are compelled by their natures always to be looking back at what has been, rather than forward into the future, the great danger is tears, the unstoppable weeping that the Greeks, if not the author of Genesis, knew was not only a pain but a narcotic pleasure, too: a mournful contemplation so flawless, so crystalline, that it can, in the end, immobilize you.”
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