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Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
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Recommended to David by: My Temple

Review of Those Who Save Us
by Jenna Blum
Harcourt Books, 2004

As someone who has read several books and seen several more movies on the topic of the Holocaust, and yet still found it intriguing, I was even more impressed by this book. Jenna Blum has crafted a Holocaust tale that, while being historical fiction, has plenty of credibility, and completely plausible. But the especially notable achievement is the sub-genre.
This is a dual story with the original perspectives of an ordinary young German woman and her difficult conditions, told simultaneously with the story of her daughter, who was 3 years old at the time of the her mother's tale. Now in her 50s, she is a German history professor living in Minneapolis. Her mother rarely spoke of the past, so her daughter, Trudy, finds other ways to discover it. How about this for a starting point: All Trudy has is an old photograph. Taken during World War II, it is a family heirloom, as it shows Trudy as a toddler, her mother, Anna, and a Nazi officer.
Meanwhile, her mother, Anna, works in a bakery during the war. Few popular accounts exist of viewpoints of regular Germans, so this is particularly enlightening. We read how they experienced poverty, terrible living (and working) conditions, and Nazi ruthlessness & harassment. While their conditions were certainly not comparable to ones of Jews, they were still surprising.
While this is fiction, the plausibility of the work is two-pronged: Ms. Blum is of German and Jewish descent, and she worked for Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation for four years.
This book has extra special meaning to me, as it was the first selection in my Temple's annual One Book, One Congregation reading program (in 2007). I highly recommend Those Who Save Us as a book that is original, dramatic, gripping, and insightful.

-Dave Flapan
January, 2013
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