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Treblinka Survivor: The Life and Death of Hershl Sperling

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  306 ratings  ·  17 reviews
The story of a man who survived Treblinka, to be haunted by his memories for 50 years - and ultimately, to be killed by them.
More than 800,000 people entered Treblinka and fewer than 70 came out. Hershl Sperling was one of them. He escaped. Why then, 50 years later, did he jump to his death from a bridge in Scotland?
The answer lies in a long-forgotten, published account o
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 9th 2010 by The History Press (first published 2010)
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A combination memoir and biography. As a child the author, Mark Smith, was friends with the sons of Hershl Sperling. Hershl, at fifteen, was one of less than 100 or so people to come out alive from the Treblinka Extermination Camp, where almost a million people were killed, including his entire family. After Treblinka he passed through a series of Nazi camps and with ingenuity, courage and a lot of luck, survived them all. He had in my opinion one of the worst Holocaust experiences I have EVER h ...more
Mark Smith
Sep 03, 2011 Mark Smith rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)


FOR Hershl Sperling in the far away city of Glasgow, surviving was a daily curse.

Mr Sperling, a Polish Jew who settled in Scotland after the war, survived seven Nazi camps including the notorious extermination centre at Treblinka.

Between 1939 and 1945, he withstood everything the Nazis could throw
One day I expect to read a book about the Holocaust, put it down afterwards and conclude that I gained almost nothing from it, whether in terms of new information or simply in terms of dealing with it. I am pleased to say that this was not that book.

The first thing to say is that this is not one of those tedious books in which a hack 'historian' merely rehashes a single primary source, padding it out with worthless verbiage, and then effectively claims it as their own. Mark Smith has put far mor
I began the journey through Treblinka Survivor in a most unusual way. The author, Mark S. Smith, is my friend on Goodreads but I acknowledge that it is often God who directs the course of my studies, most recently of WWII and the Holocaust. Therefore it is with divine intervention that this particular book arrived into my hands. The cover is hauntingly beautiful in design. A torn photograph of Hershl Sperling, whose story is to be told, is superimposed upon rusting remnants of an earlier photogr ...more
Christoph Fischer
"Treblinka Survivor: The Life and Death of Hershl Sperling" by Mark S. Smith is a great book. It gives the personal account of a camp survivor: His life in Poland before the war and almost more importantly, his life since his liberation.
Told both in his own words in an appendix and told by the author as he researches and discovers the life of Hershl Sperling it covers a broad range of issues. Smith travels to Europe several times to get a picture of the past and discovers a present that is far f
"'Auschwitz was nothing', he used to say 'Auschwitz was a holiday camp'. How terrible was the hell of Treblinka if Auschwitz had been nothing to him?"

This book tells the story of the life and death of Hershl Sperling. Hershl survived seven concentration/death camps. The book was written after his suicide (no spoiler here) by a friend of his sons.
The author who knew Hershl from his childhood tried to follow Hershl's life according to various sources of information.
The research is good and gives
Craig Brown

I think it's an oxymoron to say this book is brilliant or amazing when the subject matter is so unbelievably sad and at times grotesque.
Despite all that this book is one of the those magic books where at the end of it, a part of you is changed, quite literally changed. How can I complain about anything after reading this book?
Hershl Sperling lived through seven concentration camps during world war 2. The tasks he had to do in Treblinka are jaw dropping and so so sad. Anyone who comes out of A
David Hayes
A powerful and important book - perhaps more so for non-Jews. Apart from documenting insane cruelty and systematic murder on a terrifying scale, Mark Smith's work is a simple plea for decency (which he doesn't really expect to find). Only the stoniest heart will fail to be moved and haunted by this story. Afterward, you will want to find Mark Smith and the sons of the titular survivor (who really wasn't a survivor at all) and hug them close.
This book is incredible and although difficult to read, I am glad that I have read it. A full six months after I finished it, I continue to think about this story and look forward to reading more of the author's works.

An excerpt from my review on A Passion to Understand: "Treblinka Survivor: The Life and Death of Hershl Sperling is an extremely well-written book. It is an authentic historical account and not dry as one might imagine, but highly readable. Having said that, there were parts that
As with every book you read about the Holocaust, you are left feeling spent. Emotionally exhausted. Written by Mark S. Smith, this book tells the life story of Holocaust survivor Hershl Sperling. Mr. Sperling was one of only 67 people who survived the Treblinka extermination camp in eastern Poland.

The author was a childhood friend of the Sperling family and had a close relationship with his two sons. It is this perspective—that of the family of a survivor—that is unique and interesting. Mr. Spe
Jo Butler
Treblinka Survivor, by Mark S. Smith, is based on a 22-page document by Hershl Sperling. At the age of 15, Sperling was shoved into a railroad car and sent to the Nazi death camp. His family, along with 800,000 other Jews who stumbled through Treblinka’s gates, were slaughtered. Sperling was one of the lucky few who escaped, to be shuttled from one concentration camp to another. He described them as ‘summer camps’ in comparison with Treblinka.

Sperling’s stark description of unspeakable events is
Oh my goodness! What Hershl Sperling survived, or did he?

This account is written by a friend of Hershl's son. Mark Smith went back to document and revisit the life of Hershl. Smith comments on his emotions, the emotions of his friends, Hershl's sons, Alan & Sam.

The book is not just about surviving, but the effects of that survival upon the spouse, the children and the individual.

The introduction was written by Sam Sperling and he poignantly states " is about all people and their righ
Excellent book. Brilliant insight to what went on throughout the war in the camps as well as how certain survivors coped afterwards. The authors journey though years later visiting all the places was still quite haunting. Makes you wonder whether the people that were killed were the lucky ones as the aftermath for many survivors and their families is in itself a living hell. Shocking that so many people don't want to remember or talk about it. It's definitely a major part of history that we shou ...more
The book is repetitive at times, but it is well researched and shows the author’s deep attachment to the Sperling family. Although Mr. Smith’s conclusions are basically only suppositions because few facts are available, he does lead the reader on a logical and straightforward path as he presents a fount of historic information about the annihilation of the Polish Jews, and although he cannot walk in Hershl’s shoes in order to better understand Hershl’s destiny, the author attempts to follow the ...more
An important piece of history is revealed in this work. For that, we owe thanks to the author, Mark. S. Smith, the Sperling family, and everyone that supported the creation of this book.
Rod  C. Cohen
This is not a book for the faint hearted. But it is a Holocaust book, so that is to be expected. A reminder that the world went crazy and drove people to madness can never be an easy read.
Having read scores of Holocaust testimonies and biographies, I didn't think that this one would be that much different. But it is. The author, through years of painstaking research and visits to eastern Europe has succeeded in an in-depth examination of what happens to the life of a someone who endured the most cruel death camp of all (70 people survived out of nearly a million people who were transported there). Smith had a unique perspective, as he was close to Sperling's family and the very s ...more
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Mark S. Smith is an American journalist and writer now based in south Florida, after living for many years in Europe. He is the former Deputy Business Editor of The Herald newspaper in Scotland and is the recipient of a prestigious Scottish Arts Council Award. Mark S. Smith was born in Los Angeles, California, was schooled in both the U.S. and the U.K., and has traveled extensively as a journalist ...more
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“They called themselves socialists, and in some ways they were model socialists, fighting for the rights of workers, the way a lot of Europeans are socialists now. They hide behind their fake egalitarian principles, but really nothing has changed. Outwardly, they’re no longer anti-Jewish. Instead they’re now anti-Israel, but they’re still filled with hatred. They have all these grand ideas, with culture and cathedrals and their music, but actually they’re all just hooligans who want to kill people, identical to their anti-Semitic ancestors.” 0 likes
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