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Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  792 ratings  ·  64 reviews
"Instead of God I believe in ghosts," writes the literary scholar Ruth Kluger in this harrowing memoir of life under the yellow star, a controversial bestseller in Germany.
Born in Vienna, Kluger somehow survived a girlhood spent in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Gross-Rosen. Some of the lessons she imparts are surprising, as when she argues, against other historians, that
Paperback, 216 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by The Feminist Press at CUNY (first published 1992)
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Community Reviews

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May 13, 2014 Lilo rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone with a brain that works
(I read the German original, titled "Weiter leben: Eine Jugend")

It would be quite an understatement to say that this book is an excellent Holocaust memoir. You might as well describe Goethe's Faust as a captivating story about a sexual relationship gone bad.

"Weiter Leben" goes way beyond any Holocaust memoir I have read. If Primo Levy's "Survival in Auschwitz" goes deep into psychology and philosophy, this book digs even deeper. Yet I still found it easy to read. The psychology and philosophy of
(Reviewing it a year after reading.) This Holocaust survivor story is different. The style, the writer's personality is unapologetic and challenged me to re-think what I as an outsider thought/presumed to know about that period of history and the people who lived through it, as if she pointed her finger directly at me and other people who want to know her story, forcing us to answer why do we want to know her story? Human beings have this need to be able to explain why something is and then when ...more
what I most liked about this book was the way Kluger simultaneously asserts uncomfortable and contradictory things like: it's terrible when people assume that the catastrophe of the Holocaust must somehow have made people better, wiser, more loving, but it's also terrible when people don't recognise that survivors might have some special insight into some things; that silence and forgetfulness here is a terrible sin, but memorialisation is often empty and fetishistic; that survivors of this kind ...more
A very different Holocaust survival memoir than I am used to. Kluger purposefully wrote this memoir for a different purpose - this was not meant to show us what we already know about the Holocaust. This does not look at grotesque portraits of concentration camp conditions or satanic SS generals and Nazis. Kluger looks back at herself as a child during World War II with an objective mindset. It is as if Kluger is psychoanalyzing herself through her writing.

It is surprising in many ways - Kluger d
"Instead of God I believe in ghosts"

This was a very different memoir than the others I've read. I think because the author is a writer and her story doesn't have the direct simplicity of someone just telling their story of survival. She is more abstract and more analytical. Her story has a sharper edge. That doesn't make it better or worse, but it gave me a different perspective.

Ruth Kluger grew up in Vienna and did not have an idyllic childhood. Her parents and relatives vacillated between pet
I struggled with the rating on this book.

On the one hand, there are many elements of the book I would criticize. The author's writing, particularly in the first fifty pages, is loaded with metaphors, to the point that each line appears to be a witty soundbite; the style is therefore disjointed. The book is also replete with references that I'm not sure a non-academic would appreciate--authors and academics quoted with last names and throwaway mentions. And finally, the author herself has such a
This book shook me off my very foundation and took me to places I never thought I could mentally imagine or even endure.... I am still inspired by this book and the strength and fortitude of Ruth Kluger and her family... I wrote the author shortly after I read the book and she returned my e-mail with a thoughtful message. I always love that because sometimes books inspire you so much you need an ongoing conversation to process it... this book was one of those for me.

This was part of the required reading materials for a class. I ordered it off of Amazon, but the shipping was delayed so I just bought another copy from our school bookstore since the due date was the next day. I went to the library with the intention of getting halfway through the book, and ended up reading through all of it. I didn't want to put it down. The style is blatantly honest, and there is no pretense about the opinion the author holds. As a classmate pointed out, "you can practically ...more
A different holocaust experience than the ones more widely known and celebrated- Ruth Klüger is not afraid to show the raw emotions that go along with such a jarring experience as hers. There is sometimes bitterness, and raw anger- the anger of the child who had the bad luck (she refuses to attribute it to fate or God) to be born Jewish in Vienna in 1931. Seven years old at the Anschluss, she did not have the usual childhood experiences of learning to swim or ride a bike. She learned different l ...more

An amazing story written from an entirely different perspective. Could not put it down!
I'd add this to Night as a Holocaust memoir that should be required reading.
Feb 16, 2008 Madhuri rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Madhuri by: Alok
Shelves: holocaust, memories
Ruth Kluger's memories of a holocaust childhood, are as close to the reality of that sunken, cold, frost-bitten life that I have ever come across. Perhaps that's because it is a very honest account; I am surprised she remembered her feelings of so long ago with such remarkable clarity and had the courage to live through them again.
These feelings are not those of a tragic heroine who bore the atrocities backed by an unshakable faith, nor do they emphasize dramatically the death that hangs around
Eva Leger
While I can't honestly say that I think I'd like/have liked Ruth Kluger, I can honestly say her memoir is extremely thought-provoking. There were times when reading this that I disagreed with Kluger and even a time or two where I felt she'd gone too far with her words.
Kluger can write - there's no doubt about that. That's obvious from the reviews here on GR alone. She has a certain eloquence that not every author has. Maybe that's because she wrote poetry from an early age, I don't know, but the
Ruth Klueger’s Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered is a powerful book that is difficult to describe. The work is divided into four sections and an epilogue. “Vienna” recounts Klueger’s early childhood in the city. “The Camps” discusses Klueger’s time spent as a twelve- and thirteen-year-old in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the labor camp at Gross-Rosen, and on a death march throughout Germany. “Germany” discusses time spent in the country after running away from the death march un ...more
Angie Lisle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I wrote a blog post about some of my thoughts of this book. You can find it here:

15/10/13: This was actually a re-read for me and I really enjoyed (if that's the right word to use) it once again. Kluger offers such a different narrative of the Holocaust than one would expect and I loved that it is as much about memory, as her experiences themselves, making it very self-reflective. Moreover, it does not present the Holocaust in a vacuum but places it in t
Ari Pepper
This is a wonderful book. Unlike any other Holocaust memoirs I've ever read, the author and narrator doesn't focus on the physical conditions of the concentration camps (and really less than a 1/3 of the book is set there) but instead uses the book as a sort of diary of her thoughts and impressions. She discusses her life before, during, and after the Holocaust with refreshing frankness. The author is not looking for pity or empathy, but simply telling of her experiences and thoughts. While she ...more
Tja, was soll man dazu sagen ... Eine eindrückliche, literarische Autobiographie der Autorin bis zu ihrem etwa 25. Lebensjahr. Mit 11 Jahren kam sie, eine Wiener Jüdin, ins KZ. Wie kann eine Kindheit und Jugend unter solche grausamen Bedingungen aussehen?
Klügers Schreibstil ist persönlich, literarisch, bereichernd. Ein unglaublich reflektierter und kluger Text, allerdings auch so aufgeladen mit allen Widersprüchlichkeiten, die die (Unmöglichkeit der) Erinnerung an den Holocaust mit sich bringt,
Ich habe dieses Buch für eine meiner Literaturklassen gelesen. Ich musste einen Aufsatz (auf Englisch) über dieses Buch geschrieben.

Ruth Klüger ist eine österreichische Jüdin, die jetzt in Amerika wohnt. Sie war ein junges Mädchen während der Nazizeit und des zweiten Weltkriegs. Das Buch geht um ihre Erfahrungen als eine Gefangene in den KZs und ihre Auswanderung nach Amerika nach dem Krieg. Es ist eine sehr interessante Autobiographie, die sehr ehrlich ist. Klügers Erinnerungen an die KZs sind
This is Kluger's rewritten English version of her German bestseller. Perhaps the youngest survivor of Auschwitz, Kluger escaped with her mother shortly before Liberation. They eventually emigrated to the US, where Kluger became an American citizen and professor of German literature. Her account is almost interactive-- she tells part of her story, then stops to consider how you, as the reader, might be feeling, or what you're thinking. She might let you have it for being too sentimental, or for m ...more
S.B. Lerner
Kluger is a wonderful writer and her story is raw and powerful. It is as much about the life of a survivor as the story of her survival. A child during the Holocaust, she ultimately became a professor. Her description of the kinds of comments she had to endure after it was over, from people who had no idea what it was like, the lingering effects of the experience on her daily life, and her recollections of the luck of a single moment or the kindness of a stranger who acted unselfishly to save he ...more
This book was pretty good. I don't know if it was just that my prof made us read this too fast or if it was the book itself, but I did not really like the last half. The beginning was interesting and it tied together nicely, but I felt the last part was annoying. I'm not trying to say anything bad about the author or the events because this is an account of what happened in her life, I just did not like the portrayal of it exactly. If I had had more time to actually take the time to read this, I ...more
This is another book that I read a good long time ago. Part of my college major was German studies, so I naturally ended up reading a lot about WWII and the Holocaust. This was one notably different book because it was both written by a woman and is very stark. It's a fraught, if not impossible, thing to "critique" Holocaust memoirs. A person's experience is their experience, there is no right or wrong. I actually wouldn't mind revisiting this one - particularly in English, since my first go was ...more
Christine Soskins
I feel bad not being enthused about this book. I think I had unreasonable expectations. I felt like this was more a memoir about her life in general. I didn't feel the pathos I normally do when reading holocaust literature. But, this may have been because Kluger presented herself too nakedly, too humanly--and who really can hold up under that kind of scruitiny? Honestly, I feel too bad being critical of the book to go much further. I did enjoy it and it offered a unique perspective, and there ar ...more
This book was unlike other books I've read by holocaust survivors. What was interesting to me was the incredibly insightful analysis of the motives and reactions of the author and others to the horrors of being in the death camps; it was not a mere narrative. For the first time I saw a correlation between the treatment of European Jews and the treatment of African Americans. The author enabled me, for a moment, to "step into somebody else's skin" as Atticus Finch would say, and I hope that I hav ...more
Dec 03, 2009 Bonnie rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who hate themselves and want to torture themselves though boredom
I hated this book. The only thing that it had going for it was that it was more of a challenge than what I recently read. I was inspired by her story and memories, but just because you lived through something tragic even something as horrifying as the holocaust doesn't mean you should write a book. I mean did she even proof read. Some paragraphs/ chapters skipped around so much that I didn't understand it at all. I may not be a good writer, but I'm not trying or even want to write a book. I do h ...more
I read this book in german after a friend of mine recommended it to me.
This book is extraordinarily authentic, i could never doubt a word she has written (not that i would not believe anyone who would share his/her story from the time of the shoah).
Ruth Krüger wrote exactly what came into her mind while she was writing the book and she does not care about what people think about her. Sometimes that put me off because I felt kind of offended, even if that was probably her intention, to make us re
Dana Shiller
Nov 12, 2009 Dana Shiller rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in women's memoirs or Holocaust literature
An amazing memoir by a Viennese Jew (now a German professor in the U.S.) about the loss of her childhood in occupied Vienna, Terezin, Auschwitz and Christianstadt. Ruth Kluger's memoir is by turns sarcastic, bitter and poignant. Not just a recounting of the horrors of the Holocaust, it is remarkably illuminating about the devastating consequences of those irrational years for an adolescent and the woman she grew up to be. Very few women wrote Holocaust memoirs; this is a must-read.
Highly personal and deeply analytical, this is one of the most unique recollections of a life lived through the Holocaust and its aftermath that I have ever read. Some will be put off by Kluger's reluctance to remain likable, her lifelong feud with her mother and her propensity to condemn well-meaning platitudes, but every page of this book is dripping with the wisdom, honesty and reflection of a truly sage person.

An extraordinary book, illuminating throughout.
Bill Novak
Required for my 20th Century German Female Literature class. Macabre, witty, humorous, but overwhelmingly sad. One of the better books I've read; all due to chance. One really connects with the author, though tangentially (as one could never claim to really understand what she's been through). Touching, like Schubert's "Winterreise." Be prepared to feel a little depressed when you finish though.
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Journal Number 3 1 1 Oct 24, 2013 10:42PM  
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READ 96 Group 1 am : Journal 1 2 5 Oct 15, 2013 02:00PM  
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“Sie nahmen mich wahr und ließen mich sein, wie ich war. (Bei denen bleib ich.)” 1 likes
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