HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Elli: Coming of Age in the Holocaust
Author: Livia Elli Friedmann Bitton-Jackson
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, reprinted in 1986
Language level: 3 (the Lord’s name used as an interjection)
Reading level: Probably not suitable for anyone under age 15
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Bitton-Jackson, Livia Elli Friedmann. Elli: Coming of Age in the Holocaust (published in 1980 by Times Books). This is the first-hand, autobiographical account of a thirteen to fourteen year old Hungarian Jewish girl who was taken captive by the Nazi SS in 1944 when Hungary was invaded by the Germans, taken to concentration camps, and eventually liberated with her mother and brother, although her father was killed. My wife Karen, who likes to read about the Holocaust, had read and owned a copy of this book, but it must have been lost in moving. Recently, she saw two other books by Mrs. Bitton-Jackson, I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up In The Holocaust, and My Bridges of Hope, advertised in the Scholastic catalogue and, remembering the earlier book, bought them. But she wanted to reread Elli first. It is now out of print, but I obtained a copy for her from Barnes and Noble’s out of print book service.
It seems that I Have Lived A Thousand Years basically covers the same time period as Elli and was intended to replace the latter when it went out of print; My Bridges of Hope is a sequel about the author’s life after Auschwitz. Elli is not for young children because of the intensity of the subject matter, the frank discussion of many of the changes that take place in a teenage girl’s body, and some of the crude language used by the German guards. The terms “my God,” “O God,” and “dear God,” appear quite frequently. The Friedmanns were religious Jews, and early in the book it seems as if they are used almost in a prayer-like way, but later on it is obvious that they are merely interjections or exclamations. However, books like this, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, even Maria von Trapp’s story, and the writings of Dietrich Bonhoffer all serve a very useful purpose.
There are people running around loose in the world who claim that the Holocaust never really happened, that it is just a myth or figment of someone’s imagination. Every now and then the press gives them some coverage, and a few poor, benighted souls will believe what they say. These books provide, from completely different sources (a Hungarian Jew, a German-Dutch Jew, a Dutch Reformed woman, an Austrian Catholic, and a German Lutheran), corroborating evidence that the horrible atrocities attributed to the Nazis did actually occur. By continuing to remember what happened, hopefully society can avoid similar tragedies, at least on the same scale, in the future.