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"Instead of God I believe in ghosts," writes the literary scholar Ruth Kluger in this harrowing memoir of life under the yellow star, a controversial bestseller in Germany.
Born in Vienna, Kluger somehow survived a girlhood spent in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Gross-Rosen. Some of the lessons she imparts are surprising, as when she argues, against other historians, that the female camp guards were far more humane than their male counterparts, and when she admits that she has difficulty today queuing in line, a constant of camp life, "out of revulsion for the bovine activity of simply standing." Her memories of her youth are punctuated by sharp reflections on the meaning of the Shoah and how it should best be memorialized in a time when ever fewer survivors are left to act as witnesses. Those reflections are often angry--"Absolutely nothing good came out of the concentration camps," she writes, recalling an argument with a naive German graduate student, "and he expects catharsis, purgation, the sort of thing you go to the theatre for?"
But they are constantly provocative, too. Though readers will doubtless take issue with some of her conclusions, Kluger's insistent memoir merits a wide audience. --Gregory McNamee [via]