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The Seamstress

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  6,965 ratings  ·  553 reviews
"From its opening pages, in which she recounts her own premature birth, triggered by terrifying rumors of an incipient pogrom, Bernstein's tale is clearly not a typical memoir of the Holocaust. She was born into a large family in rural Romania and grew up feisty and willing to fight back physically against anti-Semitism from other schoolchildren. She defied her father's or ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 1st 1999 by Berkley (first published October 13th 1997)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  6,965 ratings  ·  553 reviews

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Petra X's driving in a Mustang GT to Key West
This book is frustrating me and making me angry. I want to throw it at the ghostwriter for elevating herself to co-author and giving her opinion and thoughts constantly. You aren't interesting, your thoughts aren't relevant. I wanted to read the biography of Sara Bernstein who survived, one of very few, the women's concentration camp in Ravensbruk.

The constant reminders from a woman who should have taken a back seat as the ghostwriter that her input is Important, and that she needs to tell us ab
Finished. A very good holocaust book, different from others maybe because you follow the main character from her youth. You follow Seren through many years. She is feisty! It is also very interesting to know that Sara did not tell the author everything. The missing bits are revealing. The reader knows of them because Seren's daughter has added more information and interesting comments about what it is like to be the daughter of two parents who have survived the holocaust.

Through page 273 - thes
Elyse  Walters
Wow -- I saw a Goodreads member - a new friend I hope - marked that she had read this book -- She only gave it two stars -- (which is fine) >> she read it!
I didn't even realize anyone knew of this book. (my fun surprise to see others have read it -- I'll have to read those reviews) --

I have a special connection with Sara's son (plus wife & kids) --Great family! Once considered our closest friends -people we spent the most time every week-end!
I've cherish this book -- loved reading
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a great Holocaust memoir and definitely worth reading. I think it is very important to never forget the Holocaust, though it is hard to "enjoy" these types of book. They are always disturbing, but I think that it is good for us to feel disturbed and remember. The Holocaust should never be swept under the rug because it is too unpleasant to think about. We need to feel uncomfortable about what happened. It was true, it was real, it was unbelievably horrific. Seren was a real su ...more
Claire Grasse
May 14, 2009 rated it liked it
A Holocaust survivor's story, sometimes graphic, sometimes horrifying, and in a word: depressing. The problem is, the first book I ever read about the Holocaust was Corrie ten Boom's "The Hiding Place," which deals with the horrors of Hitler's regime in the light of God's love. That book, itself, is a masterpiece of grace. This becomes a problem for me because I unconsciously want every book on the subject matter to measure up to that. I realize the Holocaust will never be something that we read ...more
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of the best holocaust memoirs I have read, a story of true triumph! When Sara was finally rescued in the closing days of WWII, she weighed forty-four pounds, "I felt myself being lifted up in two arms. I opened my eyes. One of the American soldiers was carrying me. I closed my eyes again. Drops of water began splashing on my cheeks and running down my neck...I realized that the soldier carrying me was crying, his tears falling on my face." She, and two of her companions, survived in camps wh ...more
Feb 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The Holocaust is one of the darkest moments of human history, if not the darkest moment. The Seamstress by Sarah Tuvel Bernstein is poignant coming-of-age memoir showcasing the indomitable human spirit. Sarah Tuvel Bernstein, herein referred to as Seren Tuvel, was a Romanian Jew. Much of Seren’s story is shaped around her large family; she was one of nine. Her father was a lumber mill manager and was what we could consider lower middle class today. Her formal education ended at elementary school ...more
George Lichman
The Seamstress is the memoir of author Seren (Sara) Tuvel Bernstein, a Romanian Jew who came of age during the rise of the Third Reich, was expelled from Romania, arrested and beaten by Hungarian Guard, forced into a temporary labor camp where her sister was shot and killed before her eyes, and eventually ended up on a concentration camp before escaping/liberated by American forces while being transported, likely for execution.
What was somewhat unique about The Seamstress is that the book was
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
An extraordinary, unsentimental story by an extraordinary woman. This is powerful truth, akin to horror at some points and heartwarming at others, with a strong female hero. Seren is a hero by any account. She's a tough woman who shouldn't have survived but did using intelligence and determination.

Although Seren's young life involved the Holocaust, the book is about her family and her own wisdom and grit in every situation. It's part of Seren's journey to a life she must have cherished every da
Aug 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Since beginning this book I have pondered much on the wickedness of mankind. There is so much hatred. I have never experienced pure hatred due to who I am, based on religion, color, creed, whatever. I am thankful to have been raised by parents who taught me to love all, to follow the example of my Saviour, and to strive to be like Him--perfectly loving in all things. Although I am far from His perfection, I am thankful that love, not hate, is natural for me.
I cannot recommend this book highly en
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put it down. One of those intensely riveting personal accounts that is both heart-rending and inspiring, powerful and vivid. It can be hard at times, but the way she relates her story and her personal experiences without pity, selfishness, hardness, or despair is amazing in itself. A testament to the human will to live through suffering. After I read a story such as this, I feel like I have learned life-lessons and I am a better person for it. Helps me to remember all the little thing ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bernstein does an immaculate job in describing her pain and suffering as she slowly watched her family and loved ones around her disappear into that is the Holocaust. Acting as her companions' "rock", and sometimes acting as her own, she is that extra lifeline they needed to survive. 5 solid stars. ...more
Apr 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Another holocaust memoir, but this one takes place in Romania and Hungary. Seren Tuvel entered a force labor camp in the middle of 1944 and was then sent to Ravensbruck, a camp for women only. Ravensbruck was one of the worst camps during WWII. Seren was sent there to die, but survived. Even though she was sent there towards the end of the war, when the war was over, she weighed only 44 pounds. I enjoyed this memoir because it took place in Romania, and not Germany. Not knowing much about Romani ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Holocaust History Students
I have greatly enjoyed reading this suspenceful, first person autobiography, of Sara Bernstein's life! Her story is incredible! I don't know why it has not been made into a movie! I was hooked before the first chapter was over! I highly recommend it to any history lover, such as myself! :) ...more
Linda Lou McCall
Apr 02, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Narrated by Wanda McCaddon (

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Not as a true story. This story is too contrived. Overall it's a good emotionally charged read. I just don't believe it as an actual account. I can't find anything about Sara Tuvel Bernstein except as it refers to this book.

What could the authors have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Just call it what it is - FICTION! I don't doubt that
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent recent memoir from a Romanian Holocaust survivor. She was sent to a camp near Berlin that I'd never heard of before; all women prisoners, where one in twenty survived. As with some other survivors, Sara's catalyst to write her story came a few decades later when she heard a professor claim the Jews contrived the hardships in the death camps to arouse sympathy. She had to tell her story.

I like the excerpt one reviewer included; a powerful moment:

When Sara was in her late twenties and wa
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Not a typical memoir of the Holocaust. Serin is born into a large family in rural Romania and grows up feisty and willing to fight back physically against anti-Semitism from other schoolchildren. She defies her lumber-mill-manager-father' s orders to turn down a scholarship that takes her to Bucharest. She furthers her education until she can stand the priests vicious diatribe against the Jews no longer and hurls a bottle of ink at him. She finds herself in need of an apprenticeship and place to ...more
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is by far my favorite WW2 book that I have read. I felt that I had become very close to the characters in the book. I grew to love and appreciate the simple things of life. I just don't get how people could treat another human being so inhuman, I just really don't get it. It was all over Europe, like a plague, I don't get how Teenagers and husbands could turn in there mothers in for being Jewish and then call them filthy names.

I would recommend this book over and over again to anyone w
Martha Newman
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most moving stories I have ever read. It is the autobiography of a Jewish Romanian girl who survived the Holocaust in Ravensbruck and later, Dachau, with her spirit, if not her body, intact. It is a story that has been told and retold, but the juxtaposition of man's inhumanity to man in the face of an iron will to survive can never be told too many times. ...more
When someone recounts something so horrific, I often find myself wanting to understand what it felt like to be in a situation I could not possibly comprehend. Even tough this was an emotional topic, this book was not about the author's emotion. It was a narrative that focused on the facts. Rather than taking away from the story, it allowed the facts to stand by themselves. IMO, most readers would be hard-pressed to listen to the matter-of-fact experiences and not feel complete shock. The juxtapo ...more
Jul 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, non-fiction
An interesting addition to the Holocaust survivor memoir canon. Tuvel Bernstein survived, amazingly, the horrors of Ravensbruck, where they pretty much starved the women. She wrote this story a long time before it was published, and eventually it got into the publishing world's hands.

The things I found interesting:
-The different ways people in different camps transformed themselves in order to survive. Tuvel Berstein noted that when she ultimately came into contact with Auschwitz prisoners, she
Oct 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
A memoir of Sara Tuvel Bernstein and the life of her Romanian family pre and post WWII. Sara was a bright young woman who excelled in school and as a seamstress. The first half of the memoir is about her life as a girl, her family, going to school, how she developed a career as a seamstress, and how political tides began to change around them.
Sara had a strong spirit, determination, optisimism, courage, strength of character and luck helped her survive Ravensbruck, a concentration camp for women
May 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Think of all the problems and stress in our lives. Just when we think that life today is "tough", think again...

The Seamstress is the amazing memoir of Seren (Sara) Tuvel, a holocaust survivor. When originally interviewed for her story, she merely referred to her life spent in the concentration camps as a "waste of time". This just gives you an idea of what a remarkable woman she was, with an incredible strength of character. In all senses, she was a "true" survivor.

Her story begins in Transylva
Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Like others, I could not put this book down. Sara's story was captivating. She was incredibly strong in the face of horror. The fact that she was not German and explains what happened to the Jews in Eastern Europe gave me a perspective I have not had. And, like other reviewers, I found her lack of bitterness amazing. This was the first Holocaust book I've read which made me understand that people had no idea what happened to members of their families when they suddenly disappeared. From Sara's p ...more
Alyssa Allen
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What an absolutely incredible book!

I wasn't sure what to expect. I read the back summary, and it didn't particularly grab my attention, but I got the book as a Christmas present, so I knew I was going to have to read it eventually.

Boy, was I wrong to even doubt that this could have been good in any way. It's definitely a heartbreaking story, but the way that it's written is so incredibly intriguing, it's hard to put down! I am a typically slow reader, but I finished this book in a little over a
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
The audio version of The Seamstress was well-narrated, compelling and captivating, providing an understanding of the impact of Germany's political aggression and conflict with Russia on the innocent Jewish citizens of Romania and Hungary. In December of 1937, when the moderate Liberal Party was defeated, powerful, right-wing conservative groups arose and began marches and attacks on Jewish citizens and Gypsies who became their scapegoats. Sara Tuvel's determination to survive and make sure her s ...more
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2013
This book follows Seren Tuvel throughout her life. This starts when she is a young girl in Transylvania and follows her through labor camps, imprisonment, concentration camps, and the rest of her life.

This book I have read many memoirs of WWII. I have been to the Holocaust museum in Detroit, MI to hear a speaker tell her tail. Of course I learned what they taught in history. We all have been taught of the horrid Auschwitz and the crematoriums. After reading this book I now know the s
Sharon Bohlen
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was fascinating. It told the story of the Nazi invasion of Romania which I knew very little about - gypsies and such. The horrors were much like western Europe endured, but the cultural background was an interesting historical point.

This amazing Romanian Jew survived, and emigrated after the war. One of her last comments really stayed with me, about how as much as you try not to let the Holocaust define you, its effects are something you live with forever, and people have no idea of the pa
Sep 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've read a lot of Holocaust books, but this one was definitely worth reading. And frankly, I will continue reading Holocaust books, because this history should never be forgotten.

Sara is Romanian. She tells the story of how life remained pretty normal, until one day she is put into prison and beaten, for no reason. She is released and resumes her life, trying to earn income enough to support her sisters, niece, and her mother who lives in a distant town. She looks Gentile, so she is overlooked
Jeffrey Taylor
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tremendous account of the horrors of persecution. It is particularly valuable because it covers Sara's life before and after the war and her life starts in eastern Europe and area I know less about than western Europe. I was amazed to learn that some who were forced into labor brigades by the Hungarian army were actually proud to serve, believing that they were doing something for their country. Too horrible, too brutal. We must never forget the level of savagery to which people can descend and ...more
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This well-told memoir by the late Bernstein deserves a prominent place in the archive of Holocaust survival stories. Born into a large Jewish Romanian family, Bernstein (1918-83), known then as Seren, left her mountain village at the age of 13 to attend gymnasium in Bucharest. Her independent spirit drove her to leave the anti-Semitic school and become an apprentice to a dressmaker rather than ret ...more

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