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In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  7,222 ratings  ·  600 reviews
In My Hands began as one non-Jew’s challenge to any who would deny the Holocaust. Much like The Diary of Anne Frank, it has become a profound document of an individual’s heroism in the face of the greatest evil mankind has known.

In the fall of 1939 the Nazis invaded Irene Gut’s beloved Poland, ending her training as a nurse and thrusting the sixteen-year-old Catholic girl
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 17th 2001 by Anchor (first published June 1st 1992)
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"There was a bird flushed up from the wheat fields, disappearing in a blur of wings against the sun, and then a gunshot and it fell to the earth. But it was not a bird. It was not a bird, and it was not in a wheat field, but you can't understand what it was yet."

When I understood what the bird was, it was one of the most chilling things that I have ever read.

This is the story of a Catholic girl in Poland. In 1939 when Poland is invaded, she is 16 years old and training to be a nurse. Like Poland
In My Hands in one of those books that you read and you can't get it out of your mind. This is the first novel I've read in quite some time that left me staying up all night until the darkness of sleep enveloped me.

Irene's story is both an amazing adventure and an heroic tale of a woman who saved the lives of others by risking her own. It almost seems unbelievable that the things that happened to Irene could actually happen to one person. The entire book is filled with adventure and suspense. I
Patrick Carroll
I think this paragraph is the most eloquent description of why speaking about the Holocaust was/is so difficult for the survivors. "We did not speak of what we had seen. At the time, to speak of it seemed worse than sacrilege: We had witnessed a thing so terrible that it acquired a dreadful holiness. It was a miracle of evil. It was not possible to say with words what we had witnessed, and so we kept it safely guarded until the time we could bring it out, and show it to others, and say, 'Behold. ...more
Ro Cepellos
Jul 14, 2009 Ro Cepellos rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers interested in the Holocaust, in stories of triumph and perseverence and goodwill.
Recommended to Ro by: Janina Opdyke-Smith
Kurt Vonnegut has defined a saint as a person "who behave[s:] decently in a strikingly indecent society." By his definition, Irene Gut Opdyke is a saint. I think there are more than a few people who would agree.

I had the pleasure of seeing an adaptation of this on Broadway, and got incredibly lucky: the author's daughter was in the house that night and hosted a Q&A session after the show. It was during this session that she revealed a few remarkable stories the book doesn't touch on...

As reg
This is the first Holocaust memoir I had read from a Polish point of view, and I was truly captivated. I have never read a story about one person having so much good fortune and bad luck all at the same time, it was almost like it was straight out of Hollywood. The things she was subjected to do, the things she risked and her uncompromising need to do what was right despite the consequences makes it nearly impossible to set this book down. I would lay awake at night, anticipating what was going ...more
I did not ask myself, Should I do this? But, How will I do this? Every step of my childhood had brought me to this crossroad; I must take the right path, or I would no longer be myself. You must understand that I did not become a resistance fighter, a smuggler of Jews, a defier of the SS and the Nazis, all at once. One's first steps are always small: I had begun by hiding food under a fence. Now I was making plans to... (142-143)

In My Hands is nonfiction--a memoir--and it's a powerful one. Full
I got to this memoir after my daughter recently saw and raved about the NY play ('Irena's Vow') based on the book.

'In My Hands' was written by a 23 year old Polish a nursing student after surviving six years of separation from her family, rapes by Russian soldiers and several years of servitude to German officers.

But it is not another Holocaust book. Or rather, it's a different kind of a Holocaust book. It's the story of an adolescent who decides that what's happening to the Jews is sickening. S
First - this is a true story as told by Irene Gut Opdyke (a Catholic Polish girl) with Jennifer Armstrong as the Author. I bought this book at a popular used book store not knowing anything about the story or how it was rated. About halfway through the book I did a google check on it. It was what I expected - mostly a 4 and a 5 rated book.
Irene is a big time hero. BIG TIME. What she went through and did to save a good hand full of Jews from the Nazies was mind boggling.
To read her story reads
In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, by Irene Gut Opdyke

"In My Hands" starts with the author writing to the reader that if she tried to tell you what really happened during the war, told you everything at once, you wouldn't understand it. She includes an image that you won't comprehend until later in the book, the image of a bird falling, a bird that is not a bird. And as you come to understand what the bird really is, your heart will break, and you will know just what Irene means.

I picked up this book, one because of my love of history and specifically WWII and the time of the Holocaust, but also because of the different perspective it gave. I have read a a lot of Jewish accounts of the Holocaust, but not as many from the rescuer standpoint. Many I'm sure have read The Hiding Place, a definite must read, but I also enjoyed this book about a young Polish woman who rescued/hid about 12 Jews. At the start of the book, which is also at the start of the war, Irene was only 17 ...more
Hands down, this is one of the best books I've read regarding WWII. I read this in two days--I just couldn't put it down. It's about an amazingly brave and courageous Polish woman who is caught between the Russian and German fight for Poland. She has a number of run-ins with Russia's Red Army and survives multiple horrors by them. Then she is sent to a concentration camp but is 'discovered' by a soldier there who mistakenly thinks she is German (she is blond, blue eyed and speaks German that she ...more
Abby Welker
What an incredible story. It's hard to believe that this story is one of thousands - some written, some unwritten. I honestly didn't want to put this book down - it's well written and really helps you see how beautiful life was in Poland for most people before the war, and how one day was normal and the next day everything they knew had changed. I tried to put myself in their position over and over again and I still can't imagine how difficult life was for them. My heart was broken time and time ...more
I was mainly the storey that ripped me through this book, the writing was good, some of her words were so perfect... they said mountains with out saying much or sent a clear perfect message that sat with me. Though some of it felt ... clumsy? Not sure the word I'm looking for there. There were some things I actually really liked that I wouldn't normally in a book, like the way she did not indulge in some of the big events or trauma and stuck with some details that seemed less important... it fel ...more
Feb 02, 2015 Km rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Km by: Arven Pinuela, Grace Marquez
Shelves: holocaust, 2014
As an enthusiast of Jew related stories and WW2, it always breaks my heart to read something like what Irene had experienced.

It has been decades since the Holocaust happened, but the memories of the brutality and extermination of Jews are refreshed to the new generation through the accounts of Irene.

I cannot compare the experience of Irene to what Ellie Wesel experienced in the hands of the German officers. I can say he suffered much fear, anger, pain and anguish than Irene. Nevertheless, Ellie
Irene was seventeen when World War II started in 1939. The story starts when Irene, the oldest of five sisters, is captured by a German “łapanka." Irene was taken to an area closer to the German-Soviet front. She was forced to work in a munitions factory and soon enough she was moved into a German officer's house to work as his maid. Irene dared to challenge the evil of the Germans, so she began hiding Jewish workers, one at a time, into unimaginable places in the officer's house. She hid them i ...more
Around two weeks ago, I learned from my friend that she had two tickets to go see a new broadway play called "Irena's Vow." I heard that this show was about the Holocaust and had initial thoughts that the play would just be another depressing story about the Holocaust, but I was completely wrong. After the lights went down and came up at the end for the curtain call, I was amazed by the story and portrayal of the polish catholic girl, Irena Gut Opdyke. In the back of the theater, Irena's real da ...more
This is a stunning, heart breaking/mending story full of tragedy and triumph and more tragedy. Irene Gut is a hero among heathens and her strength at 17 is more so than that of grown men with guns.
This is a story about a young Polish girl whose world is utterly destroyed by the Russian and German invasion and splitting of Poland in the 1930s. The story follows her through being brutally attacked by Russian soldiers, being commandered by the German Army and her incredible bravery in saving Jewis
A beautifully written story of one woman's story of World War II. What makes this true story so extraordinary is the ordinary of Irene Gut, a young daughter of Polish parents, a sister, and a hope that God had a plan for her. After surviving Germany's attack on Poland and several years of being isolated from her family, she is reunited for a short time and then pulled away again from her parents and sisters. During all this time, she has seen the cruelty of men in war, a fear that is rampant eve ...more
Bonnie Palmer
I don't think I could add any more to what has been already said about this book in previous reviews. I was not ready for how compellingly beautiful the telling of the story would be. The first lines of the story draw you in like a magnet: "There was a bird flushed up from the wheat fields, disappearing in a blur of wings against the sun, and then there was a gunshot and it fell to the earth. But it was not a bird. It was not a bird, and it was not in the wheat field, but you can't understand w ...more
Brittany Beach
This book was amazing. I read it for a few days straight after having it on my bookshelf for a few months. I wish I had never waited to read it. I find the Holocaust fascinating, though terrifying. What makes this book so amazing is two things; 1. All the things Irene goes through in the span of a few years, and manages to survive them all even though most would not have; and 2. it's all real. Though I'm sure some conversations aren't completely perfect along with names and such, the whole story ...more
I found this book through the "Stuff you missed in history" podcast. Its really an astonishing read, as evidenced by the fact that I swallowed it all while hanging around the house on New Year's Day. Its the story of the "female Oscar Schindler," and it deserves every bit of that title.
Excellent book - the reader is quite good as well. An amazing story of a young girl who did whatever she could to save people from execution. The accounts of the bombings she survived left me breathless. Mesmerizing story of a courageous girl.
In My Hands descriptively recounts Irene's memories, growing up as Polish 'prisoner' and 'slave' to both the Germans and Russia during the Holocaust. Her tale most remarkably elaborates on her incredible courage and devotion to helping, hiding and rescuing several Jews.
Each detail of even the slightest memory created an extremely vivid image in my head, I was swallowed by her words. The events she recorded seemed surreal but the way she so intensely described them, made them terrifyingly authen
Tessa Ginder
I believe that the author’s purpose for writing the book In My Hands was to inform people about her life and experiences during the Holocaust. Her experience working for a Nazi major, make her an authority on the subject. After reading her story, I stand firmly against what the Nazis did to the Jewish people and other victims of the Holocaust. I think that the author was very effective in communicating her experiences. The one thing that I remember most from her book was how she always managed t ...more
Leah Schaeffer
This is the first "non Jewish" personal memoir I read about the Holocaust. And what a story! It is essentially about a young Catholic girl risking her life to save Jews. But if there was an organized rating system for holocaust books-according to amount of tears shed by its reader, then this book would score my highest rating to date.

When reading countless heartwrenching memoirs from the Jewish Holocaust perspective, one knows to expect that you are in for a story of loss, endurance and pain. Bu
Sydney Neaves
I loathe to say that I am intrigued by Holocaust books, but I am. This book was by far the best biography on this time period that I have ever read. Irine was such an inspiration to me and how a girl my age could make such an impact, and help others who she knew could never repay her. Irine Gut Opdyke should be a hero more commonly brought to mind when we think of someone who has done something spectacular in their lifetime. She was a young lady who knowing the consequences it would bear if she ...more
This book is just amazing. Irene Opdyke is a hero. And just a small hero at that, but the things she did were filled with bravery, guts, ingenuity and pure unconditional love. This exciting memoir has such an impact on the horrors executed during WWII. Irene was a non-Jew helping to save the lives of a select group of Jews. What was so impacting for me was the horror after horror she witnessed as a teenager, yet it did not daunt her in any way to help poor Jewish people to safety. Although at on ...more
Lindsey Swain
Academic English
5 April 2013

In My Hands began as one non-Jew’s challenge to any who would deny the Holocaust. Much like The Diary of Anne Frank, it has become a profound document of an individual’s heroism in the face of the greatest evil mankind has known.

In the fall of 1939 the Nazis invaded Irene Gut’s beloved Poland, ending her training as a nurse and thrusting the sixteen-year-old Catholic girl into a world of degradation that somehow gave her the strength to accomplis
This book deserved my five stars. The story is true and what this woman went through as a young girl in war torn Poland should be required reading at the high school level in my opinion.

Where are the brave souls now? I can't imagine any 17-23 year old going though what she went through today and being able to cope. Standing by and watching injustice would not suffice for Irene Gut. I admire her so much. She saved so many lives.

If you have an interest in World War II history, particularly as it r
This memoir was poorly written to my taste but I am not meaning to put down the story in any way. Obdyke certainly has lived a life worthy of putting testimony down but I felt that large chunks of her story were missing, if by her own omission or just by faulty writing style. To me, if one is to write a memoir they really aught to lay it all bare, free from constriction. A big event needs more then a couple good sentences followed by flowery script. But through all this - it was interesting to r ...more
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In My Hands NOMS: Dehumanization 21 24 Mar 10, 2015 05:25PM  
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“In my fantasies, I was always caught up in heroic struggles, and I saw myself saving lives, sacrificing myself for others. I had far loftier ambitions than mere romance.” 13 likes
“Every day now, I found a chance to slip outside and leave food under the fence. I knew it was a drop in the ocean, but I could not do nothing.” 3 likes
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