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  • Unbroken: From Auschwitz to Buenos Aires
  • Daniel M. Masterson
Unbroken: From Auschwitz to Buenos Aires. By Charles Papiernik. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004. Pp. xix, 140. Illustrations. $19.95 paper.

This memoir of a Holocaust survivor offers a compelling testimony about those Jews who endured one of history's great horrors, and rebuilt their lives far from their homeland. Papiernik, who spent most of World War II in the Auschwitz death camp, lost five brothers and many other relatives in the Holocaust. He recounts the intense anti-Jewish feeling in Poland before the war and how readily the French collaborationist government gave up its Jews to the Nazi's after Papiernik settled in Paris.

Papiernik's memories of Auschwitz are searing. Terrible hunger, thirst and beatings were constant. Emotionally, because Auschwitz was one of the most secure of the death camps, the Jews faced the terrible burden of feeling totally abandoned by the world. Still, there was resistance. Despite facing certain death, plots to sabotage the gas chambers and attacks on guards did occur. As the War turned against the Nazis, sketchy reports of Allied victories and later the sight of Allied bombers over the camp gave the Jews cause for hope. With his eventual rescue by U.S. troops in the spring of 1945, Papiernik found life in Paris difficult. He thus sought a new life with his sister in Uruguay. There he married, built a business and raised a family while writing and speaking in an effort to raise awareness of the Holocaust in his newly adopted country.

Economic turmoil and the Tupamaros eventually drove Papiernik and his family to Buenos Aires, where his business thrived and his Holocaust related activism took him throughout Argentina. But on July 18, 1994 a car bomb destroyed the offices of the Jewish Social Services building in Buenos Aires, killing eighty-five. Once again Papiernik had visions of Auschwitz. More than a decade later, this criminal act remains unsolved and we are left to ponder its connection to the terrible mindset of the Holocaust. Although unevenly written, this short autobiography is clearly appropriate for undergraduate reading lists.

Daniel M. Masterson
U.S. Naval Academy
Annapolis, Maryland


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