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Title: Living Among the Dead: My Grandmother’s Holocaust Survival Story of Love and Strength
Author: Adena Bernstein Astrowsky
Published: 3rd of March 2020 – Amsterdam Publishers
Format: Ebook – 181 pages
“My grandma made me realise to always love because we weren’t born to hate, and for this, I will try my hardest to spread joy. I hope she knew that her life has brought more meaning to my world and everyone else’s.” – Living Among the Dead
Hello Hello! How are you?
I am so happy to be bringing your this #RandomThingsTour hosted by Anne Cater for my review of Living Among the Dead by Adena Bernstein Astrowsky. I’ve always loved reading historical fiction, and especially books about WWII, but I’ve only ever read one or two biographies or autobiographies about this time period and these events. I knew that this was a book for me when Anne sent the email. Thank you so much to Anne for letting me take part in this tour, I always love working with you and your books are all brilliant. Thank you for sending me the book. Keep reading to find out what I thought about this story.
This is the story of one remarkable young woman’s unimaginable journey through the rise of the Nazi regime, the Second World War, and the aftermath. Mania Lichtenstein’s dramatic story of survival is narrated by her granddaughter and her memories are interwoven with beautiful passages of poetry and personal reflection. Holocaust survivor Mania Lichtenstein used writing as a medium to deal with the traumatic effects of the war.
Many Jews did not die in concentration camps but were murdered in their lifelong communities, slaughtered by mass killing units, and then buried in pits. As a young girl, Mania witnessed the horrors while doing everything within her power to subsist. She lived in Włodzimierz, north of Lvov (Ukraine), was interned for three years in the labor camp nearby, managed to escape and hid in the forests until the end of the war.
Although she was the sole survivor of her family, Mania went on to rebuild a new life in the United States, with a new language and new customs, always carrying with her the losses of her family and her memories.
Nearly eighty years after liberation, we are still witnessing acts of cruelty born out of hatred and discrimination. Living among the Dead reminds us of the beautiful communities that existed before WWII, the lives lost and those that lived on, and the importance to never forget these stories so that history does not repeat itself.
Living Among the Dead: My Grandmother’s Holocaust Survival Story of Love and Strength by Adena Bernstein Astrowsky is the story of her grandmother, Mania Lichtenstein as she recounts through her stories and poetry the events of WWII, how she survived and how her life unfolded after the end of the war. Adena brings together her grandmother’s story through her own words, poems, stories, her victim accounts, other peoples’ accounts and lots of research and factual elements, describing many things that you may not know about what happened to Jews in ghettos all around Eastern Europe when Hitler’s men invaded these countries.
As I have already said, there is something about stories set during WWII and about WWII that I just can’t get enough of. This is my second nonfiction of the year, and before today, I had only ever read a few other victim accounts. I’m going to be paying more attention to nonfiction starting from now.
I really enjoyed how we get a mix of Mania’s actual life, from her birth, to when the Nazis invaded, to the end of the war and her whole adult life. There were a lot of factual elements that were so interesting to read about because I hadn’t the slightest idea about any of them. When you read books or watch films about WWI or WWII, you often only see what the war was like in France, England, Spain, Germany, Italy, but in my experience, you hardly ever see it portrayed in Ukraine, Poland, or Russia. This is one of the reasons that I can’t stop reading books about WWII, be it historical fiction, memoirs, nonfiction or fiction because there is always another side to the story, another victim account, another experience, another country and I think that it’s so important to know about all these individual strands and how together they make up the thread of these wartime events, mainly so we can do our best to stop them from happening again and to keep remembering them, passing down the knowledge to every generation.
I really liked how we got a lot of Mania’s poems and stories dispersed in the book, they were all so heartfelt, devastating accounts of trauma, but they also brought to light the sheer will power, hope, fate and miracle experiences of this one woman.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a great experience for me to read about another survivor account, to learn all about Mania’s incredible journey, how she survived and persevered even when all hope was seemingly lost. I think it truly was fate that she survived so many awful experiences and her story is one to remember.
I gave this book 4 stars because although I appreciate this story very much and loved reading all about Mania’s experiences and life, reading her stories and poetry, the added factual elements, a few times I found there to be a few repetitions or the order of the story was just a bit complicated for me to enjoy properly.
This is such an amazing story of one woman and how she survived through what she believed was “fate”. There will never be enough stories like this one and we should never stop looking for them, I just wish that I could learn more about Mania because this really was a beautiful survival account, I highly recommend.
Thank you to Anne and Adena for letting me be part of this tour and for sending me the book, it will remain in my heart and I’ll be sure to keep pushing it into peoples’ hands when they ask for books about WWII.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this review. Give me all of your WWII recommendations in the comments! See you soon, stay safe,
“After all I survived, only due to mere fate. Perhaps it was providence… someone had to tell the world about it. I cannot stop reliving their anguish and pain.” – Mania Lichtenstein, February 1999
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – ADENA BERSTEIN ASTROWSKY
Adena Bernstein Astrowsky has dedicated her career to helping the most vulnerable of our society. She did this by prosecuting child sexual abuse cases and domestic violence cases within the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. She became the local expert concerning the prosecution of domestic violence-related strangulation cases and taught extensively on that subject. Currently, she handles post-conviction cases on appeal and foreign extradition cases. Adena taught Sunday School at her temple for eight years, and in her last two years she co-taught “Character Development Through the Studies of the Holocaust.” Adena contributes articles to MASK (Mothers Awareness on School-age Kids) Magazine, often writing about children’s safety, drugs, law, and order, etc. Once a month Adena volunteers at a local Scottsdale library with her therapy dog, Charlie, as part of the Tail Waggin’ Tales Program. Adena has also chaired events to raise money for the Emily Center of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Recently, Adena was recognized for her professional and philanthropic work with an Amazing Woman Award from the Phoenix Suns and National Bank of Arizona. Adena’s greatest role, however, is as the mother of three very active children. She, and her husband, Brad, are kept very busy with their respective dance, theater, music, and athletic activities.
Adena’s Twitter Handle: @adena_astrowsky