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A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy

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Thomas Buergenthal, now a Judge in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, tells his astonishing experiences as a young boy in his memoir A Lucky Child. He arrived at Auschwitz at age 10 after surviving two ghettos and a labor camp. Separated first from his mother and then his father, Buergenthal managed by his wits and some remarkable strokes of luck to survive on Thomas Buergenthal, now a Judge in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, tells his astonishing experiences as a young boy in his memoir A Lucky Child. He arrived at Auschwitz at age 10 after surviving two ghettos and a labor camp. Separated first from his mother and then his father, Buergenthal managed by his wits and some remarkable strokes of luck to survive on his own. Almost two years after his liberation, Buergenthal was miraculously reunited with his mother and in 1951 arrived in the U.S. to start a new life. Now dedicated to helping those subjected to tyranny throughout the world, Buergenthal writes his story with a simple clarity that highlights the stark details of unimaginable hardship. A Lucky Child is a book that demands to be read by all.


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Thomas Buergenthal, now a Judge in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, tells his astonishing experiences as a young boy in his memoir A Lucky Child. He arrived at Auschwitz at age 10 after surviving two ghettos and a labor camp. Separated first from his mother and then his father, Buergenthal managed by his wits and some remarkable strokes of luck to survive on Thomas Buergenthal, now a Judge in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, tells his astonishing experiences as a young boy in his memoir A Lucky Child. He arrived at Auschwitz at age 10 after surviving two ghettos and a labor camp. Separated first from his mother and then his father, Buergenthal managed by his wits and some remarkable strokes of luck to survive on his own. Almost two years after his liberation, Buergenthal was miraculously reunited with his mother and in 1951 arrived in the U.S. to start a new life. Now dedicated to helping those subjected to tyranny throughout the world, Buergenthal writes his story with a simple clarity that highlights the stark details of unimaginable hardship. A Lucky Child is a book that demands to be read by all.

30 review for A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lilo

    I think it is my duty, not so much as a German (born to non-Nazis in 1939) but as a human being, to keep reading Holocaust memoirs. I cannot read too many in a row, but I read several every year. Yes, Thomas Buergenthal was “A Lucky Child”; otherwise, he would not have lived to write this memoir. But as Ruth Klueger points out in her philosophical Holocaust memoir “Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered”, the luck of the Holocaust survivors does not diminish the dimension of the crime, and I think it is my duty, not so much as a German (born to non-Nazis in 1939) but as a human being, to keep reading Holocaust memoirs. I cannot read too many in a row, but I read several every year. Yes, Thomas Buergenthal was “A Lucky Child”; otherwise, he would not have lived to write this memoir. But as Ruth Klueger points out in her philosophical Holocaust memoir “Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered”, the luck of the Holocaust survivors does not diminish the dimension of the crime, and the survivors cannot be used as “credits” to be subtracted from the great “debit”. Thomas Buergenthal’s story lets you shudder at how much repeated miraculous luck was necessary for his survival. Religious people will probably replace the term “luck” with other terms. Buergenthal, however, is not religious and attributes his survival to luck. All Holocaust memoirs (i.e., those that stick to the truth and don’t mix facts with fiction) are worthwhile reading, but one cannot possibly read them all. So I try to find those memoirs that are well written and provide some more insights than others. “A Lucky Child” is certainly one of them. Each Holocaust survivor has his or her own story, the story of an individual experience. And while the dreadful living- and dying conditions in concentration camps and on death marches in all of these memoirs are quite alike, the personal experiences differ. What also differs is how the survivors and those in their surroundings deal with their ordeals. What makes this book especially interesting is that the memoir continues after the war and tells about the author’s adult life. Thomas Buergenthal was able to overcome his, quite understandable, initial hate for Germans. He became a human rights activist and a lawyer specialized on international law, dealing with prosecuting war crimes and human rights violations. I strongly recommend the reading of this book. It should, along with some other Holocaust memoirs, be mandatory reading in schools all over the world. Other highly recommendable Holocaust memoirs are: Elie Wiesel’s “Night” Primo Levi’s “Survival in Auschwitz” (orig. title: “If This is a Man”) and its sequel “The Reawakening”— See my review at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Ruth Klueger’s “Still Alive: A Girlhood Remembered” See my review at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Peter Kubicek’s “Memories of Evil” See my review at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... and Tema Merback’s “In the Face of Evil”, based on her mother’s Holocaust survival See my review at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... One should also not miss “The Complete Maus”, by Art Spiegelman

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Published in 2015, former justice to the ICC, Thomas Buergenthal discusses his survival during the Holocaust. So important to have survivors record their story so that future generations may never forget.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lora Dudding

    One of the best Holocaust accounts I have read. A wonderful quote: "It is important not to hold the descendants of the perpetrators responsible for what was done to us, lest the cycle of hate and violence never end". If this were applied to race relations in America, it would eliminate so much hate and harm. One of the best Holocaust accounts I have read. A wonderful quote: "It is important not to hold the descendants of the perpetrators responsible for what was done to us, lest the cycle of hate and violence never end". If this were applied to race relations in America, it would eliminate so much hate and harm.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bev Walkling

    Having just undergone eye muscle surgery, I chose to "read" this as an audiobook borrowed from my local library. I confess that I was medicated and perhaps at times drifted in and out but it was a fascinating book telling the story as he remembers it of Thomas Buergenthal's life as a boy growing up during the war living in ghetto's , Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen. That he managed to survive all do these experiences he puts down to "luck" knowing that sounds odd, and to the length of time he spent Having just undergone eye muscle surgery, I chose to "read" this as an audiobook borrowed from my local library. I confess that I was medicated and perhaps at times drifted in and out but it was a fascinating book telling the story as he remembers it of Thomas Buergenthal's life as a boy growing up during the war living in ghetto's , Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen. That he managed to survive all do these experiences he puts down to "luck" knowing that sounds odd, and to the length of time he spent drifting into hell which prepared him to survive. He spoke Polish and German fluently (and a little English) which proved helpful at many times - even allowing him to pass as a Polish child for some months. He literally escaped death after being shot as part of a mass execution managing to get up from where he was shot and escape into a neighbouring camp where he quickly found his father. The story if full of close calls. The audio book has both the preview and prologue parts read by the author and while his voice was a little flat at times, I appreciated hearing him speak his own thoughts. The reader of the bulk of the book did an excellent job too. In the closing section read by the author we learned more of his after the war. He ultimately became a lawyer specializing in human rights cases and spent much time for example dealing in some of the roughest cases in Central America. He was also involved in attempts to get money from Swiss bank accounts back to the rightful owners and it was quite shocking to hear how the banks had been taking advantage of that money over time. After all of his experiences he could have chosen to hate. He did not and made it clear that the sins of the fathers should not be visited upon their children. This was an excellent read and I highly recommend it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I'm always interested in the stories about how people survived the hardships of WWII particularly the Holocust. This book was written by a boy who survived many events in his childhood including being in no-man's land (which was a place between countries) to a Jewish ghetto in Poland, to death camps and work camps. He was about 10 when he went on the Auschwitz Death March. He attributes his success to many things including luck, his Aryan appearance, his ability to speak multiple languages, and I'm always interested in the stories about how people survived the hardships of WWII particularly the Holocust. This book was written by a boy who survived many events in his childhood including being in no-man's land (which was a place between countries) to a Jewish ghetto in Poland, to death camps and work camps. He was about 10 when he went on the Auschwitz Death March. He attributes his success to many things including luck, his Aryan appearance, his ability to speak multiple languages, and his child's view of not thinking about the future. He doesn't remember alot of details, but some are very specific. Some of his story is fun like being adopted for awhile by the Polish Army who took him with them to invade Berlin. Most however are similar to other peoples stories. He was the youngest child to survive any of the camps he was in. Mostly children were exterminated. Some details were filled in later when he was contacted by others. One man he met Odd Nansen kept him entertained while in the hospital ward, later he realized Nansen also probably kept him alive by paying orderlies with tobacco. Odd Nansen published his diaries and Tommy gained some notariaty in Sweden. But his friendship which developed more after the war with Mr. Nansen proved to influence Thomas greatly by introducing him to important people, like Albert Schweitzer and giving him a role model in Humanitarian aid. Odd Nansen is said to be one of the founders of Unicef. Thomas became a Humanitarian as well, and is now a Justice in the International Court and has a back ground in Human Rights. The epilogue of this book comments on more current human rights issues such as the continuing use of genocide. He reminds us of Rawanda, El Salvador, and other places where people have been systematically exterminated. In all Buergenthal gives a unique perspective of his childhood, tempered by his years of experience in Human Rights. I recommend this book to any who are interested in this type of memoir or human rights. Years later I still think of this book. I added an extra star because of it. I have been corrected about him being the youngest at his camp. However there are many things about this book that make me consider human rights. I am glad to have read it and recommend it whole heartedly.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lindy

    A touching memoir of a young child's survival of the Holocaust. This book was not as graphic as many Holocaust books I have read and the thought provoking nature of the work makes it a must read. I particularly recommend the epilogue. It is a very thought provoking look into international human rights law. As much as th UN is corrupt, I have wondered about international court bodies - particularly when state sovereignty is disregarded for international rule. I think the author provides a very co A touching memoir of a young child's survival of the Holocaust. This book was not as graphic as many Holocaust books I have read and the thought provoking nature of the work makes it a must read. I particularly recommend the epilogue. It is a very thought provoking look into international human rights law. As much as th UN is corrupt, I have wondered about international court bodies - particularly when state sovereignty is disregarded for international rule. I think the author provides a very compelling argument for international courts and such organizations. I would love to have this discussion in a group of people who are well versed in the pros and cons of international law. The author puts into words a taught I have had many times while reading of the atrocities of the Holocaust: "it frightens me terribly that the individuals committing these acts are for the most part not sadists, but ordinary people who go home in the evenings to their families, washing their hands before sitting down to dinner, as if what they had been doing was just a job like any other. If we humans can so easily wash the blood of our fellow humans off our hands, then what hope is there for sparing future generations from a repeat of the genocides ans mass killings of the past?" The Holocaust was perpetrated by neighbors, friends, husbands, wives, sons, daughters - regular people. That is one thing I like about this book. Buergenthal highlights individuals and gives them credit for their impact in his life, even saving his life at times. Individuals killed millions one at a time, but other individuals saved countless others- and continue to do so today- one at a time.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Petra

    Holocaust memoirs are so important and become more over time. They are the eye-witness reports of atrocities that would otherwise have been forgotten and swept under the rug. The memoirs show us what truly happened and how people's lives were affected, both during and after. Thomas Buergenthal tells his story from a distance of 55 years. This gives his memories a somewhat unemotional telling but one that is deep and touching. One can see the pain he witnessed and experienced through that filter Holocaust memoirs are so important and become more over time. They are the eye-witness reports of atrocities that would otherwise have been forgotten and swept under the rug. The memoirs show us what truly happened and how people's lives were affected, both during and after. Thomas Buergenthal tells his story from a distance of 55 years. This gives his memories a somewhat unemotional telling but one that is deep and touching. One can see the pain he witnessed and experienced through that filter of time. From this atrocity of the Holocaust, Thomas emerged as a wonderful human being who understands that the cycle of horror and pain has to be stopped. He's doing his part to stop that cycle of hatred & retaliation and turning it to understanding and acceptance. "The task ahead (for mankind) is to strengthen these tools (international law), not to despair, and to never believe that mankind is incapable of creating a world in which our grandchildren and their descendants can live in peace and enjoy the human rights that were denied to so many of my (Thomas) generation."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emily Donnellan

    **I wrote this review as a reflection paper for my Public International Law class so it does not read like many of my other reviews. Still I hope you enjoy!** During undergrad I took a class on the Literature of Genocide. My professor’s mother was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide and he only taught that one class every spring. I began the semester believing we would talk about only the holocaust; we would read Night by Elie Wiesel and be done with it. I was completely wrong. Literature of Gen **I wrote this review as a reflection paper for my Public International Law class so it does not read like many of my other reviews. Still I hope you enjoy!** During undergrad I took a class on the Literature of Genocide. My professor’s mother was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide and he only taught that one class every spring. I began the semester believing we would talk about only the holocaust; we would read Night by Elie Wiesel and be done with it. I was completely wrong. Literature of Genocide opened my eyes to the world around me and spurred my interest in International Law. After that class, for a long time, I couldn’t read anything having to do with genocide, the holocaust, or even World War II. My mind couldn’t believe what it was reading and my heart couldn’t stand to watch another family broken apart, to witness a million more people die. I must admit, The Lucky Child was the first book, about the holocaust, I have read since Literature of Genocide and I’m glad that it was. Buergenthal’s holocaust survival story is different then most. I enjoyed the way he tackled events chronologically. It didn’t begin with him arriving at Auschwitz. It began with him being a happy boy, a child with two loving parents, who happened to be Jewish. Buergenthal grew up on the pages before my eyes. He transformed for a small boy escaping with his parents to Poland, to a survivor of ghettos and labor camps, and the mascot of the polish army. Buergenthal credits his survival to luck. I believe it was because he was a survivor; he was strong in the face of adversity and, at times, completely fearless. The things he witnessed at such a young age are unimaginable for most people. I understand why it took until his later life for him to write this memoir. He needed the distance that only time can provide. My favorite aspect of the memoir was Buergenthal’s discussion on survivor’s guilt. The author admits that he never suffered from survivors guilt because he fully credits his survival to luck; that he was never the most brave, or afraid, or most anything, he was just a lucky child born under a fortunate star. At first I took issue with this idea. I have a hard time crediting luck with anything. I am firm in my belief that we make our own luck and then let the chips fall where they may. Buergenthal’s survival story made me questions this belief. Had it not been for his parents hiding him in Poland when all the other children were rounded up, his usefulness to the boss at the polish work camp, the Nazi’s not checking his train car on arrival at Auschwitz, the doctor befriending him when he became sick in the ghetto, and a multitude of other lucky coincidences Buergenthal would not be alive today. Call it what you may, fortune, divine intervention, survival, but Buergenthal was a lucky boy. Buergenthal’s story didn’t end once Auschwtiz was liberated. So many memoires end when the Polish, American, or Russia troops reached the gates of the various camps. It is at this point that Buergenthal’s story really begins. He is adopted by the polish army and becomes their mascot before being taken to an orphanage to wait for any news of his parents. The tone of the story changed when Buergenthal was at the orphanage. The optimistic ten year old is confronted with what has happened to him and millions of others in the camps and how society doesn’t, or can’t, believe it. I was overjoyed when, while at the orphanage, Buergenthal received word that his mother had survived. It seemed impossible that these two would ever be reunited and Buergenthal again credited luck. My one qualm with this book was that after Buergenthal was reunited with his mother things began to drag for me. I immensely enjoyed the beginning if the memoir, Auschwitz, his time with the polish army, and to a certain extent his orphanage experience but after Buergenthal was reunited with his mother the memoir read less like a memoir and more like a list of things that happened to have occurred. Brief mentions of his mothers new husbands, the Nuremberg trials, moving to America, and Buergenthal becoming a Judge with the International Court of Justice. These are all very interesting events that have shaped him greatly and spurred him to write his memoir. I wish the reader was given more description and explanation for this time in Buergenthal’s life. Although, perhaps that may come later if he chooses to write a memoir on working on the International Court of Justice. I enjoyed The Lucky Child. It was different from any other Holocaust, or even Auschwitz specific, memoir I had ever read. It was interesting to see what time does to one’s memories of a genocide and to see how such a young survivor coped. Buergenthal is a truly unique man and I am glad to have read his memoir.

  9. 5 out of 5

    KOMET

    "A LUCKY CHILD: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy" is Thomas Buergenthal's story of survival against incredible odds during the Second World War, first at the Ghetto in Kielce, Poland (which was later wiped out by the Germans), Auschwitz (where he was imprisoned between August 1944 and January 1945, when he with other able bodied survivors were forced to march on foot in the depths of winter into Germany shortly before Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops), and Sachsenhausen, wh "A LUCKY CHILD: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy" is Thomas Buergenthal's story of survival against incredible odds during the Second World War, first at the Ghetto in Kielce, Poland (which was later wiped out by the Germans), Auschwitz (where he was imprisoned between August 1944 and January 1945, when he with other able bodied survivors were forced to march on foot in the depths of winter into Germany shortly before Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops), and Sachsenhausen, where he was liberated by the Soviets in April 1945. Thomas was by then 10 years old, the only child to have survived the Auschwitz Death March. Burgenthal's story is a heart-searing, honest, and powerfully poignant account of the human cost of the Nazi Holocaust, and of the resilience of one of its survivors to endure, persevere, and make a life for himself in the U.S. as one of the world's leading international human rights law experts.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    This is another book that I can't possibly rate. It's not that I am opposed to rating all memoirs. It's more I am opposed to it when it is someone who has been through a situation I can't begin to ever understand. (ex other war memoirs, kidnappings etc) Maybe it means I'm a softie. All I know is to strip someone's experience, an experience that was a major if not the major event in their life, down to stars is something I cannot do. So you will rarely see it in my reviews. That being said, Buerg This is another book that I can't possibly rate. It's not that I am opposed to rating all memoirs. It's more I am opposed to it when it is someone who has been through a situation I can't begin to ever understand. (ex other war memoirs, kidnappings etc) Maybe it means I'm a softie. All I know is to strip someone's experience, an experience that was a major if not the major event in their life, down to stars is something I cannot do. So you will rarely see it in my reviews. That being said, Buergenthal's story of survival brought goosebumps to my arms and tears to my eyes. He truly feels lucky to have made it and I feel lucky that he decided to tell his story.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Before I opened this book I looked at the cover a long time, it shows a young and happy family, a young cherub faced boy and I thought to myself, they do not look Jewish...but then I thought how in the late 40s and 50s in this country people had very perceptive radar as to what anyone's national background was. As a child, I went no where that I wasn't immediately recognized as coming from Irish stock, true I had freckles which seemed to never deface any British face I knew...and looking back at Before I opened this book I looked at the cover a long time, it shows a young and happy family, a young cherub faced boy and I thought to myself, they do not look Jewish...but then I thought how in the late 40s and 50s in this country people had very perceptive radar as to what anyone's national background was. As a child, I went no where that I wasn't immediately recognized as coming from Irish stock, true I had freckles which seemed to never deface any British face I knew...and looking back at photos I only saw and American child. Yet even into my 20s and 30s the first thing most people commented on was my Irishness, In spite of the fact my family had been here for generations, and with that was the assumption that I was a Papist. Today only a few would have that special cultural based face recognition. Growing up my family knew many Jewish people primarily because my father in his youth during the Depression had been a Shabbat goy, and had come to know many Jewish families, most of whom he admired. Post war due to the low pay of an U.S. Officer, we lived in a Jewish neighborhood in Far-Rockaway, filled with recent emigres and Jews who had lived here for generations. The only people I recognized as Jews were the were the ultra orthodox because of their dress. I obviously did not have the capacity for special facial recognition. In every story about Holocaust survivors is the standard reality that people turned in others for appearing Jewish, even people who had lived in their countries since the 1200s, were totally assimilated, often non practicing and intermarried. I began to realize as I got older that people who don't like a group or feel threatened by it have different antenna than the rest of us that allowed people to turn in neighbors who might have been practicing Catholics or Lutherans for generations, immediately identifying them as Jews. Another thing I always ponder that seems inexplicable to me was noted By Thomas..."In January 1945, Germany was fighting for its basic survival, and yet the Nazi regime was willing to use its rapidly dwindling resources....rail facilities, fuel and troops....to move half starved and dying prisoners from Poland to Germany. Was it to keep us from falling into the hands of the Allies or to maintain Germany's slave labor supply? The lunacy of it all is hard to fathom, unless one thinks of it as a game concocted by the inmates of an asylum for the criminally insane." pg 97 I think of the madness that descended on Budapest in the final weeks before it fell, the utter lawlessness, and yet in this atmosphere Eichmann was undeterred and was driven to round up every remaining Jew even if he had to force march them toward rail lines that had been blown up, even if it required to force march them hundreds of miles to their extermination. To me that level of sheer hatred was always difficult to understand...how even as you life is threatened you must risk all to insure that others will die in the proscribed manner. This is a moving and interesting story of a very young boy who through sheer luck survived many selections that should have led to his early demise...like most survivors it was sheer luck where survival might mean just having a proper pair of shoes, or some other slim happen chance. The author tells his story through the eyes of a child which did shield him from some of the horror around him. I have known survivors both of the Holocaust and of wars whose trauma has scared them deeply, some especially those who were children have more success in keeping the flashbacks at bay than even young adults who had a deeper understanding of what they were caught up in. Thomas' story also speaks to the fact that no one who is alone survives, it took the small interventions of many people to keep him alive, whether it was those who gave him hope or those who actually risked much to change his card and maneuvered to keep him off of the 'kill' list. Survival often meant sheer luck and who was drawn to you who were trying to keep you alive even at risk of their own life, while others now faceless and nameless were eliminated in the first selection. Thomas Buergenthal did pay back the universe whose strange fate spared him by becoming a major human rights litigator. I have had many people ask me how I can bear to read Holocaust stories, perhaps it is because my mind wants to make sense of it, where their is little sense to be made, perhaps it is to recognize the early warning signs of what creates the possibility of genocide, perhaps it is to honor those now dead who passed through my life, their stories disappearing with them as though they had never been. I don't know even myself, but within them I find morsels of hope and the indefatigable spirit of human beings.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    This is one of the most beautifully written WWII memoirs I've read. Buergenthal writes his story after several decades of growth and wisdom since he was in the death camps. This edition includes a forward written by Elie Wiesel. Wiesel's Night was written soon after the end of the war and is raw. Buergenthal's is softened by time - both stories are vital. Never forget. I love what Buergenthal did with his life. He is an amazing person. This is one of the most beautifully written WWII memoirs I've read. Buergenthal writes his story after several decades of growth and wisdom since he was in the death camps. This edition includes a forward written by Elie Wiesel. Wiesel's Night was written soon after the end of the war and is raw. Buergenthal's is softened by time - both stories are vital. Never forget. I love what Buergenthal did with his life. He is an amazing person.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~

    For being about the horrors of Nazi occupation of Europe and the Holocaust, this wasn't a difficult read. The author, Thomas Buergenthal, writes about his childhood in an approachable manner. It probably helps that he's writing it several decades after the fact - the pain and anger he would have felt during and immediately after the events have had time to heal. It's light on details of the day-to-day activities of those years, as he and his family were first on the run from Germans, then living For being about the horrors of Nazi occupation of Europe and the Holocaust, this wasn't a difficult read. The author, Thomas Buergenthal, writes about his childhood in an approachable manner. It probably helps that he's writing it several decades after the fact - the pain and anger he would have felt during and immediately after the events have had time to heal. It's light on details of the day-to-day activities of those years, as he and his family were first on the run from Germans, then living in the Jewish ghetto in Poland, then the various concentration camps he was imprisoned in. As a result, it glosses over a lot of the horrors, focusing instead on events that stick out to him most - but those events are rather harrowing in themselves. He doesn't linger on them though. Some might find this lack of detail frustrating, others may be relieved. I've read other accounts of the Holocaust, most memorably Elie Wiesel's Night, so I was able to fill in what wasn't there. This felt like a very honest and intimate account of his days surviving WWII and the Holocaust. His writing here is flowing and stark, and he doesn't get bogged down with unnecessary repetition like last few autobiographies I've read. He was indeed a "lucky" child to survive Dr. Mengele and Auschwitz. Speaking of Night, they were both clearly in Auschwitz at the same time, as they both describe the Death March with the same sort of dreadful resignation. He was lucky many other times in order to survive, and that continues even after his liberation as he details how he was eventually reunited with his mother. One cannot stress enough how important this time period was to the shaping of the world as it is today and why it's necessary that it continue to be taught in our schools. Buergenthal's work in international humanitarian law is inspirational and reminds us that, no matter how bleak things can still appear, there is hope for improvement and that things already have improved in many places. We can make the world a better place, but we can only do that by remembering the atrocities that came before and striving not to repeat them.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine

    Thomas Buergenthal is now an international court judge at the Hague. He has spent most of his professional life working for human rights causes. A Lucky Child is his memoir, written some 50 years after his experience as a Holocaust child survivor. I was not expecting to learn much more about the Holocaust than I already knew when I started the book, but after finishing it, I realized that I had never read a book about a child’s experience during this demoralizing time of history. He lived in the Thomas Buergenthal is now an international court judge at the Hague. He has spent most of his professional life working for human rights causes. A Lucky Child is his memoir, written some 50 years after his experience as a Holocaust child survivor. I was not expecting to learn much more about the Holocaust than I already knew when I started the book, but after finishing it, I realized that I had never read a book about a child’s experience during this demoralizing time of history. He lived in the ghetto with his parents for four years, and then survived two labor camps and Auschwitz, including the death march, where he escaped the death sentence. He ended up in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany which was liberated by the Russians. Liberated sounds wonderful, however, once the Russians arrived they simply let all the people go out on their own, including the children. No assistance was given at all. After being on his own for some time and then in an orphanage he was reunited with his mother almost two years after liberation. His father did not survive. When he was reunited with his mother and living in Germany he wonders how these Germans can go about their lives as if nothing happened. He wishes he could mow them down with a machine gun. It took him a long time to get over his feelings. And he said, “It took me even longer to recognize that the only way to protect mankind against crimes such as those that were visited upon us is to break the cycle of hatred and violence that invariably leads to ever more suffering by innocent human beings.” His decision to defend human rights makes perfect sense after reading his memoir. Buergenthal was a “lucky child,” being at the right place at the right time, and looking more German than Jewish, but it was also his faith in his own survival, his wits, and as he said, learning the tricks needed to survive. This is a moving story, heartfelt and rewarding to read. Perhaps even necessary to read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    ❆ Crystal ❆

    Review for audiobook ~ 4 stars story ♫ 2 stars narration. This is an amazing story told from the POV of a child. He admits that memory can be changed some... not sure if some events are memories or were things that he heard his parents talk about. He was age 5 when his world was turned upside down. He was lucky to be able to stay with his family for a long time. Separated at Auschwitz from his mother, he was able to stay with his father for quite some time. There wasn't a "selection" when he fir Review for audiobook ~ 4 stars story ♫ 2 stars narration. This is an amazing story told from the POV of a child. He admits that memory can be changed some... not sure if some events are memories or were things that he heard his parents talk about. He was age 5 when his world was turned upside down. He was lucky to be able to stay with his family for a long time. Separated at Auschwitz from his mother, he was able to stay with his father for quite some time. There wasn't a "selection" when he first arrived to Auschwitz as he for sure would have been gassed immediately being a child. He escaped execution time and time again... some times due to luck, other times because of his wits, and sometimes based on pity taken on him. Not many children survived concentration camps or forced marches... It's just an amazing story of survival. The narration by Don Buergenthal was only 2 stars for me. I would have much preferred the author narrate his own book as he did a fabulous job at the beginning and end of the book. The narrator chosen just didn't fit the book at all. That was disappointing.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    One of the most heartbreaking and touching Holocaust memoir I've ever read. One of the most heartbreaking and touching Holocaust memoir I've ever read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lesr Kew

    WOW. This was an amazing book. A story so well written by a solid individual years after it occurred to him. I underlined so many sentences.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Al

    I strongly recommend this book. I would guess that 'another' book about the Holocaust would cause many to roll their eyes. However, this book works on a lot of levels. Buergenthal says he waited so many years to write this memoir, because otherwise he would have had a hard time telling it or trying to keep it from being an angry rant. The story of course tells the story of a dark time in world history. Then again, it's surprisingly uplifting. The ten year old Tommy has to do some pretty amazing t I strongly recommend this book. I would guess that 'another' book about the Holocaust would cause many to roll their eyes. However, this book works on a lot of levels. Buergenthal says he waited so many years to write this memoir, because otherwise he would have had a hard time telling it or trying to keep it from being an angry rant. The story of course tells the story of a dark time in world history. Then again, it's surprisingly uplifting. The ten year old Tommy has to do some pretty amazing things to survive. It's sad, of course; but I still think it could be read by the squeamish. You also don't need to know anything about World War 2, though of course, WW2 buffs will recognize dates and locations. Tommy is a lucky boy because he gets to go to Auschwitz, which seems amazing, but is explained out. It is a story of human rights, but to a certain extent it's an adventure story too. This is a book that has pretty much universal acclaim on Amazon. It is a fairly quick read and Buergenthal is an excellent storyteller. Even if you don't think you would like this type of book, it is worth picking up, because everyone will be able to take something out of it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    I loved this memoir. It was very different than other Holocaust memoirs I have read. The author is more, this is the way life was and avoids a lot of feeling. It is very sad, but because it seems so matter of fact, it makes the ugly and sad easier to read. It is very interesting to read about this smart little boy who evades selections time and time again.

  20. 4 out of 5

    April

    I really hate to rate a Holocaust memoir, because each story is important and deserves attention. However, this book was just not well written and quite boring in fact. A lot of facts were sort of gleaned over. If one of my students wrote this I would send it back to them and tell them to add more specific detail. I ended up skimming the end because it was just lackluster.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    An excellent, and very readable, memoir of the Holocaust. This would certainly suit teenage readers.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    Ok, so, I'm probably going to get some hate from the following review. Here goes nothing... I will never water down a Holocaust memoir, I know that no matter what the author endured, my life is cake and butterflies and ponies in comparison. But this particular story gave me the feeling of "This happened. Then this happened. Then we were liberated. Then the end." If I'm not mistaken, the author was only in Auschwitz for a very, very short period of time. (A couple days, maybe?) Therefore, I feel a Ok, so, I'm probably going to get some hate from the following review. Here goes nothing... I will never water down a Holocaust memoir, I know that no matter what the author endured, my life is cake and butterflies and ponies in comparison. But this particular story gave me the feeling of "This happened. Then this happened. Then we were liberated. Then the end." If I'm not mistaken, the author was only in Auschwitz for a very, very short period of time. (A couple days, maybe?) Therefore, I feel as if titling this book "A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy" was slightly misleading. THIS IS JUST ME THOUGH.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brooke Alleger

    Super interesting to learn of his adult life as lawyer and human rights activist as well. Many of the Holocaust stories I’ve read end shortly after liberation. This one was unique in that he was liberated halfway through and then he tells about how that experience influenced his adult life. Highly recommend reading. Appropriate for teens.

  24. 4 out of 5

    James Asante

    Yes one star, though a compelling story of survival both physically and mentally. Thomas Buergenthal survived by courage, luck, wits and insight during and after the war. He went on to become an international law judge, adjudicating human rights violations throughout the world. He so eloquently described why he may of avoided “survivors guilt”. As he put it, “…maybe it was because as a child I felt immortal and had a sense of entitlement to live.” Is that how he feels towards Israel's 'right to Yes one star, though a compelling story of survival both physically and mentally. Thomas Buergenthal survived by courage, luck, wits and insight during and after the war. He went on to become an international law judge, adjudicating human rights violations throughout the world. He so eloquently described why he may of avoided “survivors guilt”. As he put it, “…maybe it was because as a child I felt immortal and had a sense of entitlement to live.” Is that how he feels towards Israel's 'right to exist'? He provided more than the usual commentary of life after the war and how he and his Mother had come to terms with the injustices by their fellow Germans. His work on human rights should be applauded and recognized, however he fell terribly short of the mark with his glaring omissions on the Apartheid in Israel. I hung on every word of his soliloquy of how we must never forget, how as humans we must protect and challenge the indignities of what “normal” human beings inflict on others. Very well said; deep philosophical comments piercing the core of humanity. Yet, how could he possibly not utter a scintilla of opposition to the war crimes of Israel and the human suffering of the Palestinians? How can he not apply all his insight, compassion and sense of justice to the horrible crimes of killing innocent men, women and children, stealing the land, homes and livelihoods’ of a people who occupied a land some 450-500- years before the Zionists created this right to do exactly what the Nazi’s did to them? How could this man of such character and courage just totally ignore, probable the greatest injustice of humanity alongside the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust? I devoured this book hanging on the hope he would be selfless enough to call-out Israel for unspeakable crimes against humanity. I am finished with the book and all I’m left with now is what he didn’t say. An opportunity lost forever! There are study questions at the end of the book and this should be one of them, “Why did he leave this issue out?” His defining moment, in a life filled with luck and opportunity, just passed him by. Did he not for a minute think about a Palestinian Mother who longs for her child who sits in an Israeli jail, or worse yet buried under the rubble of indiscriminate bombing? Judge Buergenthal, did you every think there are Palestinians suffering and have yet to survive what you managed to do?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    I picked up this book because I have always been interested in first person accounts of the Holocaust. Written as a personal memoire, this book tells the story of Tommie - a young Jewish boy who survives several Nazi concentration camps included the infamous Auschwitz. It is a compelling story, but Mr. Buergenthal did not write this book until much later in life, so there are some gaps in the story and some of the recollections are limited, but overall I was not only amazed at Tommy's almost mir I picked up this book because I have always been interested in first person accounts of the Holocaust. Written as a personal memoire, this book tells the story of Tommie - a young Jewish boy who survives several Nazi concentration camps included the infamous Auschwitz. It is a compelling story, but Mr. Buergenthal did not write this book until much later in life, so there are some gaps in the story and some of the recollections are limited, but overall I was not only amazed at Tommy's almost miraculous survival, but I especially enjoyed the end of the book where Mr. Buergenthal shares his outlook on the experience and his ability to move beyond hatred toward those responsible.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dav

    . A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy • by Thomas Buergenthal (First published 2007. 200+ pages) Overview: Thomas Buergenthal ("Tommy" born 1934, is now a former judge for the International Court of Justice & law professor)...tells his astonishing experiences as a young boy... He arrived at Auschwitz at age 10 (1944) after surviving two ghettos and a labor camp. Separated first from his mother (Gerda "Mutti") and then his father (Mundek), Buergenthal managed by his wits a . A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy • by Thomas Buergenthal (First published 2007. 200+ pages) Overview: Thomas Buergenthal ("Tommy" born 1934, is now a former judge for the International Court of Justice & law professor)...tells his astonishing experiences as a young boy... He arrived at Auschwitz at age 10 (1944) after surviving two ghettos and a labor camp. Separated first from his mother (Gerda "Mutti") and then his father (Mundek), Buergenthal managed by his wits and some remarkable strokes of luck to survive on his own. Almost two years after his liberation, Buergenthal was miraculously reunited with his mother (Dec. 1946) and in 1951 (age 17) arrived in the U.S. to start a new life. The author begins by explaining his recollection of events when he was a boy, may not always be precise. Back then, in the concentration camps, his sole objective had been to stay alive and to know when the next meal would be. His father had left Berlin and his banking career due to increased Nazi attacks against the Jews. Tommy was born in Czechoslovakia where his parents managed a Czech hotel. By 1938 or '39 their hotel was confiscated and the family forced to flee the country and eventually they made it to Poland, his father's country of origin, where they had relatives. In Katowice they register for immigration to England. Just when the highly-prized visas arrive and they're all set to go, the Nazis invade. Many Jewish families are forced to take refuge in the Ghetto of Kielce (Poland) where one of many purges occurs, the Nazis weeding out the young, old and infirmed--anyone unsuitable for work is murdered. With mom's talent for persuasion and speaking the flawless German of her country, along with Dad, fluent in Polish and equally resourceful and a lot of luck, they all three avoid being purged (killed). In July of 1944 they arrive at the labor camp in Auschwitz, the Birkenau extermination facility just down the road (Tommy is 10-years-old). Many purges, troubles and lucky circumstances lay ahead: Tommy is able to work as a kapo's errand boy; in another selection (purge) he's separated from Dad and never sees him again; mom had already been sent to the women's camp; a Polish doctor in the camp befriends & protects him from execution with fake ID; a death march in the cold and snow; eventually he and other survivors arrive in a camp in Germany, he lost at least two toes to frostbite. Still in the Sachsenhausen camp infirmary with his frostbite damaged feet, he wakes to find the guards had fled and the Russian liberators soon arrive. For a while he's taken in by a Polish military scout company that takes him on as a mascot and he accompanies them back to Poland. Tommy is 11 years old and is taken in by a Jewish orphanage and relishes the adventure-filled life he spent with the Polish Army. At the orphanage he attends school, excels at sports and one day a letter from his mother in Germany arrives. She's been desperately trying to find him. In 1946, post-war Europe, it was no easy task to travel from central Poland to the British zone of West Germany--travel restrictions galore. It's a process involving numerous people, over many weeks to smuggle Tommy across Europe. He's twelve-and-a-half in late December 1946, when mother and son are together again. They are reinstated as German citizens and Tommy attends school. At first he harbors great resentment against the German people (killers of Jews), but his classmates had never even met a Jew. During this time going to school and living with mom, he contacts the famous Norwegian, Odd Nansen who was in the concentration camp with him. Odd published the diaries he kept while a prisoner and mentioned little Tommy. This made Tommy a bit of a celebrity in Norway and he's able to go for a visit, traveling by airplane for the first time. Mom eventually remarries and moves to Italy, living happily ever after. Tommy immigrated to the US. Upon arriving in New York Harbor he experiences his most unforgettable moment, seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. The memoir ends with an author's note: he details the luck that helped him survive and the lasting effects of trauma. He eventually attended school in the US and is led into international human rights law, which becomes his passion, as he endeavors to prevent nazi-like atrocities. However, state-sponsored human rights violations continue. He also mentions the fraud of some Swiss banks. Holocaust victims had safeguarded their funds in the banks, but decades later the banks never returned the money to the Jewish families or to their heirs. . Mostly well done. Does include many of the usual examples of Nazi horror. The author makes the point of being compassionate, merciful toward the post-war German citizenry. Those Jews who avoided the Holocaust by immigrating to the USA, were far less likely to be so forgiving. ..

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    A Lucky Child:  A Memoir Of Surviving Auschwitz As A Young Boy, by Thomas Buergenthal This book is part of genre of literature that I must admit I am familiar with but seldom enjoy reading, and that is memoirs of the survival of the Holocaust, of which we should not expect very many new ones given the length of time, except among manuscripts preserved in private and found by divine providence [1].  Indeed, divine providence has a lot to do with my view of this book because in reading this book I A Lucky Child:  A Memoir Of Surviving Auschwitz As A Young Boy, by Thomas Buergenthal This book is part of genre of literature that I must admit I am familiar with but seldom enjoy reading, and that is memoirs of the survival of the Holocaust, of which we should not expect very many new ones given the length of time, except among manuscripts preserved in private and found by divine providence [1].  Indeed, divine providence has a lot to do with my view of this book because in reading this book I was at a distinct disadvantage in that I do not believe in luck, and the author attributes his survival in the face of the horrors of Nazi Germany and its occupied territories to a combination of luck and his own survival skills and in his abilities to gain the help of others.  Nevertheless, although this book does dwell on luck and on the author's implicit challenges to theodicy given the suffering faced by his mother in losing her first two decent but somewhat frail husbands before marrying for a third time in the aftermath of World War II, this is not as heavy-handed a book as one would imagine. In terms of its contents, this book is about 200 pages and contains a story of how a child survived the concentration camps and found a future in the United States.  It begins with a look at the idyllic childhood of the author in Lubochna, in what was then Czechoslovakia, before having to leave for Poland after the German conquest (1).  Then the author discusses life in Katowice among other refugees and local Jews (2) as well as his time in the Kielce ghetto (3).  A discussion of the author's survival of the labor camp at Auschwitz (4) and of the death march from that notorious camp to Germany (5) then follows, after which the author writes about his liberation (6).  A heartwarming story about his adoption as a mascot by the Polish army (7) and his experience in an orphan's camp in Poland waiting to be found by his surviving mother (8) then shows the poignancy of the life of a refugee.  The book discusses the new beginning he and his mother faced after World War II (9) and life in postwar Germany (10) where he sought to catch up with his peers after falling academically far behind before he shows how he got a new life in America (11), where the narrative ends. How you feel about this book will likely depend on a wide variety of factors.  The author takes a rather unsentimental tone throughout that puts in sharper relief the evils of Hitler's Germany as well as the essential humanity, both for good and for evil, of many of the people trapped within it.  The author shows the development of his own bias and has some particularly poignant words to say about the shaping of his character and his destiny by what he had to endure, something that any survivor of childhood trauma will likely find insightful.  While in many cases the essential difference between my worldview and that of the author would be a major difficulty in appreciating this book's considerable virtues, in this case the author's straightforwardness makes this book easy to relate to anyway.  The author expresses real regret for having waited to long to write his narrative, but perhaps his effort here points out to the fact that those who suffer from the horrors and traumas of history have yet another obligation after surviving, and that is recording what happened to a world that would be all too willing to sweep it under the rug and deny it ever happened at all, yet another burden we must face when we have stared into the abyss of evil and lived to tell the tale. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robin Webster

    ‘A Lucky Child’ tells the story of Thomas Buergenthal, born to a German-Jewish mother and a Polish-Jewish father in 1933 and from the age of 6 years, grew up in the Jewish ghetto of Kielce (Poland) and later in the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen. After the War he lived with his mother in Göttingen, Germany before moving to America in 1951. He eventually became a specialist in international law and human rights law and served as a judge on the International Court of Justice at ‘A Lucky Child’ tells the story of Thomas Buergenthal, born to a German-Jewish mother and a Polish-Jewish father in 1933 and from the age of 6 years, grew up in the Jewish ghetto of Kielce (Poland) and later in the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen. After the War he lived with his mother in Göttingen, Germany before moving to America in 1951. He eventually became a specialist in international law and human rights law and served as a judge on the International Court of Justice at The Hague from March 2000 to his resignation in September 2010. Obviously no child can be brought up surrounded by such horror and death and not be affected by it. However, what strikes me about Buergenthal’s account is his lack of bitterness and hatred, despite the authors understanding of the darker side of the human condition. He then spent the rest of his working life attempting to put into effect international human rights laws and policies to save other innocent victims from experiencing what he had experienced, believing that he had a moral obligation to devote his professional life to the protection of human rights. The account of his life under the Nazis is mainly taken from memory 50 years after the Holocaust and recounts his direct experiences. Despite the subject matter, I found this book strangely uplifting. Thomas Buergenthal survived a living hell and became a better human-being because of his experiences. I don’t think I could be so forgiving, but one thing I do know, without people like this author, the world would be a much worse place.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen K - Ohio

    Only five years old at the start of World War II, the author miraculously survives the life in the Nazi established Jewish ghetto and its elimination, German work camps and the Nazi concentration camps. He does not end his memoir when the camps are liberated. He devotes the last part of his book to how he, at only ten years of age, survives the many dangers he continued to face after being freed from the camp. How he finds food and shelter, is taken as a sort of mascot by a Polish army unit, wit Only five years old at the start of World War II, the author miraculously survives the life in the Nazi established Jewish ghetto and its elimination, German work camps and the Nazi concentration camps. He does not end his memoir when the camps are liberated. He devotes the last part of his book to how he, at only ten years of age, survives the many dangers he continued to face after being freed from the camp. How he finds food and shelter, is taken as a sort of mascot by a Polish army unit, witnessed the fall of Berlin and eventually is housed in a Polish orphanage. His long journey to be reunited with his mother who also survived was equally amazing. That they were able to locate each other in the confusion of post war Europe was rare for most survivors. He and his mother returned to her hometown in Germany. His mother remarried a kind doctor and the author studied with a tutor to try to catch up on all the schooling he missed while in the Jewish ghetto, work camps and Nazi death camps. At 17 he went to the United States, where his Uncle’s family lived, to continue his education. It was hard to part from his mother, but he said he felt uncomfortable in Germany. Wondering which of his neighbors were fervent Nazis or which might have been involved with the Holocaust. He earned Master of Law and Doctor of Juridical Science degrees from Harvard University and dedicated himself to international law, concluding that he had a moral obligation to devote his professional life to the protection of human rights.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marcela

    3.5 Stars Even though I have read a countless number of World War II/Holocaust books, I feel like there could never be a limit to this number as I believe it's so mportant to always remember what happened during this tragic time in history. This is a beautifully written memoir of a young boy who survived Auschwitz. Thomas Buergenthal begins his memoir from the time when he was just a regular happy child living with his family, through the horrors experienced in the concentration camps, and finall 3.5 Stars Even though I have read a countless number of World War II/Holocaust books, I feel like there could never be a limit to this number as I believe it's so mportant to always remember what happened during this tragic time in history. This is a beautifully written memoir of a young boy who survived Auschwitz. Thomas Buergenthal begins his memoir from the time when he was just a regular happy child living with his family, through the horrors experienced in the concentration camps, and finally to his life after the war. I found Buergenthal's memoir very inspiring with how he was able to take the horrific experiences he had to endure and used them in a positive manner to ultimately become a judge specializing in human rights law and international law making a difference to so many people affected by injustice. He mentioned a few cases he was a part of and I thought they were very interesting. Buergenthal delivers a touching message about how people may judge nazi descendants and the need to end the cycle of hatred. I would definitely recommend this book. This was my favorite quote: ”One cannot hope to protect mankind from crimes such as those that were visited upon us unless one struggles to break the cycle of hatred and violence that invariable leads to ever more suffering by innocent human beings.”

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