Nancy's Reviews > The Mascot: The Extraordinary Story Of A Jewish Boy And An Ss Extermination Squad

The Mascot by Mark Kurzem
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's review
Sep 18, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: biography, holocaust-adult, november-2008
Read in November, 2008

Orphaned at an early age, Kurzem's father, Alex, immigrated from Europe to Australia after World War II, with a Latvian family that had been caring for him during the war. An inveterate storyteller, Mark's father would pull one item at a time from a special travel case that was off limits to the family, and using it as a prop for yet another of his amazing tales.

After decades of silence, Alex finds himself compelled to confide his true history--as much as he can remember of it, to his son Mark. He wants to remember who he really is.

In reality, he was orphaned at age five or six when he hid in a tree and watched as soldiers slaughtered all the Jews of his village. He survived in the forest for an indeterminate amount of time before being found by Latvian soldiers. For some reason, the commander, who discovered that he was Jewish, decided to protect him. He was given a Latvian name, and dressed up in a Latvian army uniform and became a mascot to the unit. Later on he was passed on to the Latvian family who took care of him and who were connected with high-ranking Nazis who dressed him up in an SS uniform and starred him in a Nazi propaganda film, among other things.

Witness to war crimes committed by his protectors, coerced into participating in calming a group of Jews as they were loaded into trucks, he felt guilty for what he saw as his complicity. He was later threatened to keep quiet about the actions he saw, and carried his unsettling past with him into old age.

His son agrees to help him uncover the truth, which they finally manage to do despite many road blocks, some of which were threatening.

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