The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million
The Lost begins as the story of a boy who grew up in a family haunted...more
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...more
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 survive the Holocaust.
Like many American Jews, I don't know precisely what happened to my relatives. Daniel...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
This isn't one of those "miracles happen, even in the toughest of times" memoirs though...it's heavy and brutal and sad...more
Daniel Mendelsohn, an award-winning book critic and author of The Elusive Embrace, tells a magnificent, heartbreaking story that toggles between past and present. Masterfully and lovingly narrated, his story extends Holocaust remembrance past the tragedy itself to rescue from oblivion the vanished world of prewar Poland. Despite the utterly compelling nature of this family history (Mendelsohn's own life included), The Lost is not an easy read. First, there's the difficult subject matter. Second,...more
I just couldn't do it. Despite my desire to know what he ultimately learned about his lost family members, I just couldn't get more than 100 pages into it. The writing was horrible! Clauses strung together, one after another, until by the end of the sentence you can't remember what the subject was. Long sentences cobbled together with colons and semi-colons into monstrous mega-...more
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...more
Those names alone should ring of horrific crimes to the least historically inclined.
Ravensbruck. Sachsenhausen. Natzweiler. Those too, although lesser known, ring of the same horror.
Perhaps the name Mengele brings it to mind. Or perhaps just Hitler.
Beginning with the Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, the pogroms against the Jews are widely recognized to have begun in November 1938. Before the Holocaust, upwards of 7.3 million Jews lived in occupied Europe. By t...more
I have been reading this book for months. It was lent to me more than a year ago by a friend in another state, and I feel guilty that I still have it. But it isn't the sort of book you plow through. I rarely can just inhale and digest non-fiction anyway; but this one is unique in my inability to do so.
Daniel Mendelsohn is incredibly self-indulgent in the way he writes this book. The whole thing is told (appropriately, fittingly) as a Jewish grandfather might tell the story of hi...more
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...more
The author grew up hearing how much he looked like a great uncle, who'd been "killed by the Nazis". There were a few pictures of the uncle, his wife and some of the four daughters, and a few stories, and he started on a multi-year, worldwide search to find out more. His younger brother, a professiona...more
The book has its flaws, in my opinion. The author weaves in narrative of rabbinical scholars which I thought distracted from the story (even though interesting by its own...more
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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.”