• “The Death Camp Magicians” is November’s Book of the Month



    Death Camp Magicians

    Review by Marcia Posner

    The Death Camp Magicians: A True Story of Holocaust Survivors Werner Reich and Herbert Nivelli, by William V. Rauscher and Werner Reich, is HMTC’s November Book of the Month. When a psychic priest names William V. Rauscher, and Survivor Werner Reich, both of whom are interested in magic, write a book together, the reader can expect to read something unique. This one does not disappoint. The two met because Reich was tracing “Nivelli” a professional magician who was his bunkmate in Birkenau, a concentration camp. Nivelli had taught Reich some card tricks there. Their common interest in magic had so fascinated a concentration camp guard, that Reich is sure it saved Nivelli’s life and indirectly, his own.

    Assuming that there are many younger people today who no longer know much about the Holocaust and Hitler, Rauscher introduces it in the book with many archival photographs, a history of the Holocaust and it’s villains followed by philosophizing on the theme of evil. He prefaces Reich’s testimony with, “Antisemitism, prejudice, intolerance and racism are caused by a lack of inner knowledge, spiritual development, self-awareness and a distorted view of our place on earth in the scheme of things.” He also has some provocative thoughts on how one needs an inner sense of divine dimension to cope with drugs and other evils of modern society and that he finds in Reich’s testimony of his Holocaust experiences a vision of how to rescue today’s youth from repeating that horror. Then Rauscher provides a list of Jewish magicians from the period of the Holocaust. Fascinating!

    But the bulk of the book belongs to Reich. His “book in a book” is titled: From Darkness Into Light: The Autobiography of Werner Reich.

    Reich’s description of his harrowing journey through the Shoah, the “Catastrophe” as the Holocaust is sometimes called, is dynamite. Reich was only 16 years old when he was taken prisoner at Auschwitz II. His gripping account of how he spent his teenage years in three concentration camps, where he encountered cruelty, but also where sometimes kindness and mutual support by prisoners trying to convert hardship into humor, aided the miracle of surviving. His bunkmate, Nivelli, entertained the SS guards with magic tricks and taught some to Reich, who credits Nivelli for changing his life and possibly for being selected as one not to be killed. He also wanted to thank Nivelli for introducing him to magic. Rauscher helps Reich vis a vis Nivelli and invites Reich to write his Holocaust experiences for this book.

    In his book (within the book) Reich guides the reader into the deepest recesses of what a teenager experienced in those terrible years when hell visited upon the earth and innocent souls were bound in its grasp. He depicts the entire history of Nazi influence and take over of Germany, his home country, and what happens to him in three increasingly tortuous concentration camps, as well as later on a train when the Germans are about to surrender. After liberation, as he wanders from country to country seeking a home and friends, if not family, one wonders how he survived. Multilingual, he also spends time on what happened to him in various countries after the war, at times as painful as his days of incarceration; truly a dismal time until determination to live again and find new friends and love with Eva start to make him whole again. Reich is not only a survivor, he is also a fine author, historian, and lecturer/speaker. This is a perfect book to offer to those who know little about Holocaust history and/or a memoir of someone’s experiences in that “kingdom of the night.” It is an equally perfect book for those who value good writing and admire the courage and strength of those young people who despite all, survived the camps. Each Survivor’s story is different, and Reich’s is one of the strangest. Despite his suffering, he retained his wry sense of humor and determination to survive. Recommended for young adult to adult.

  • “The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust” is the October Book of the Month

    Nazi Officers Wife

    The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust

    Beer, Edith Hahn with Susan Dworkin. Harper Collins/Morrow. hc; pb 1999;
    Prichards Trustees Ltd./HarperCollins pb. 305pp. 2015 $16.99
    Also available from HarperCollins e-books

    Book review by Marcia Posner.

    An autobiography about a beautiful young Jewish law student who doesn’t try to escape from Austria because she would neither leave her widowed mother, nor her half-Jewish classmate, Pepi, with whom she has fallen in love. They share the shock of watching Hitler devour the countries of Eastern Europe without a shot, as he will soon annex Austria. Most gentile citizens are delirious with joy when the Germans enter, and will soon begin to attack their Jewish neighbors and former classmates.

    Edith Hahn, a brilliant student, had taken her country’s antisemitism in stride. She loves Vienna’s beauty and culture. Despite the underlying antisemitism of many in the Christian population, Jews could practice their professions, own businesses, have Christian friends and intermarry with Christians. Some of the brightest students had become Socialists with dreams of one day going to Palestine. Was it too late, now that the Germans had marched in to the cheers of Vienna’s citizens? As conditions worsen, more Jews try to escape but many, unwilling to leave their elderly relatives, remain. Edith, too, has tarried too long. Her mischling boyfriend’s Christian mother won’t let him leave, not even after Kristallnacht.

    Edith and her mother are dispossessed from one lodging after another. Edith is called up for slave labor and begins her long trial of exhausting work and near starvation in a series of slave labor camps. On her way to the end – to a concentration camp – she escapes from the train and is gifted with a brave, generous-hearted Christian friend’s identification documents. Assuming her gentile friend’s identity, she becomes a “submarine,” one of the Jews who hide in plain sight in a land that will murder them if they are discovered. Despite keeping a low profile , a German soldier who is an artist, meets her in an art museum and within weeks proposes to her. After confessing that she is a Jew, she finally accepts his proposal, lives the lie, and survives. Edith never surrenders her true self however, and after the war returns to it with mixed consequences. There is much more to the book than is reported here.

    The Louis Posner Memorial Library has two copies of The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Woman Survived the Holocaust, the original and the new one that has no doubt been published to accompany the forthcoming film. It has a 12-page supplement that provides a long obituary of Edith Hahn Beer written for the UK Times, plus a recollection of the author by her loved ones, and a reading guide. Read the book first. A film seldom includes everything.

  • “Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II” is September’s Book of the Month

    BOM- September

    HMTC is excited to announce Savage Continent: Europe in the aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe as our September book of the month!

    Savage Continent explores the aftermath of the war with a new lens as Lowe approaches the history of the post-war with a transnational perspective. Lowe not only looks at the massive physical devastation within these nations but also the economic and psychological devastation from years of war and genocide. Through examining Europe as a whole, Lowe uncovers interwoven narratives of racism, destruction and memory. This incredible work helps to unpack the aftermath of war and contextualize the rebuilding of Europe. Lowe’s work will intrigue and educate, bringing yet another dimension of understanding to World War II and the Holocaust.

  • “The World Must Know” by Michael Berenbaum is August’s Book of the Month


    HMTC is excited to have “The World Must Know” by Michael Berenbaum as our August book of the month.

    “The World Must Know” is a cornerstone work for educators looking to teach the Holocaust. This work gives a detailed and organized chronology of the events of the Holocaust allowing for a deep and thorough knowledge of the subject. The work is accompanied by images of primary sources which can be utilized in the classroom. Mr. Berenbaum is one of the key designers in the construction of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and his book clearly demonstrates his knowledge and passion for the topic. This book is the perfect introduction for those looking to teach the Holocaust in the up-coming school year. “The World Must Know” is available in HMTC’s library.

  • “The Power of Life: Being a Human Being” is the July Book of the Month

    BOM- July


    The Power of Life: Being a Human Being by Pesach Anderman is July’s Book of the Month.

    Mr. Anderman’s gripping work recounts his traumatic life during the Holocaust. He states that “despite the inner struggles involved in bringing my story to light, I decided that the time had come to put my story on paper. I did this without delay, without hesitating, taking a clear and incisive look into my soul, a restless soul, if only to ensure that the future generations would know from whence they came, what kind of people we were, a nation without a country of its own, and how we were persecuted for all those years.” The Power of Life demonstrates the triumphs and pitfalls of humanity in a gripping and beautifully written work.

    This extraordinary work is available in HMTC’s library and in our bookstore.

  • “The Magician of Auschwitz” – Book of the Month – May

    HMTC is delighted to feature Holocaust Survivor and HMTC speaker, Werner Reich’s book “ The Magician of Auschwitz” as our book of the month.

    Werner was a youThe Magician of Auschwitzng man when he entered Auschwitz death camp. While imprisoned, Werner befriended a famous magician, Herr Levin. While imprisoned, Levin was forced to perform magic for the concentration camp guards. By entertaining them, night after night, he was able to survive. In the midst of this terrible prison, Herr Levin showed Werner great kindness and taught Werner magic tricks. Herr Levin believed that “magic has helped keep me alive . . . perhaps it will help you too.” As Werner recalls upon learning his first magic trick from Levin; “it was nearly impossible to think about a future . . . but in that moment, he felt less afraid and less alone. Someone had cared about him and given him some hope. There was enough real magic in that for Werner to hold on to.”

    This beautiful and emotional children’s book explores the power of hope and friendship even in the most harsh of circumstances. “The Magician of Auschwitz” is a fantastic introduction for children into understanding the great brutality of Nazism and also the strength of human kindness.

    ” The Magician of Auschwitz” is available for purchase at the HMTC gift shop.


  • Survivors – An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide

    Survivors AG

    2015 marks the 100th commemoration of the Armenian genocide. In recognition of both the victims and Survivors, HMTC is honored to have Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide by Donald E. Miller and Lorna Touryan Miller as our April book of the month.

    Between 1915 and 1923, over one million Armenians fell victim to a genocidal campaign that is still denied by the Turkish government. Thousands of other Armenians suffered torture, brutality and deportation, yet their story has received scant attention.

    Through interviews with a hundred elderly Armenians, Donald and Lorna Miller give the “forgotten genocide” the hearing it deserves. Survivors raise important issues about genocide and about how people cope with traumatic experiences. Many of the accounts are wrenchingly painful, but they also speak to the strength of the human spirit.

    The book – divided into three sections – begins with a historical overview of the period, followed by the accounts of survivors organized by themes (life before the deportations, the deportation marches, the experience of women and children, orphanage life and family reunions, and emigration and resettlement) and finishes with an analysis of the Survivors responses to genocide.

    This review is courtesy of the University of California Press 

  • Book of the Month – March – HMTC Celebrates Women’s History Month

    HMTC celebrates Women’s History Month! In honor of Women’s History Month HMTC is celebrating female authors and books about women! We have chosen five excellent books from our very own Louis Posner Memorial Library. All of these books are available on library loan!

    Book of the Month- March

    Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought For Free Speech, And Became A Feminist Rebel – Bettina Aptheker

    This fascinating memoir by Bettina Aptheker is a true journey through American history in the 60’s. Bettina was a core member of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley University and became a dynamic feminist. This work will make you laugh, cry and cheer on Bettina as she challenges the world and discovers herself.

    Mother’s in the Fatherland– Claudia Koonz

    Claudia Koonz’s famous work Mother’s in the Fatherland was groundbreaking in the world of Holocaust Academia. Kooonz examines women’s roles in Nazi Germany and delves into the complexities of gender within the third Reich. Koonz’s attention to the specific workings of female Nazi leader-ship and the gendered choices of Germany’s women provides a thought provoking look into Nazism.

    A Tiger in the Attic– Edith Milton

    This beautiful memoir tells the story of Kindertransport Survivor, Edith Milton. Edith and her sister, Ruth, were sent via the Kindertransport to England at the outbreak of the War. In this wonderful work, Edith explores the trials and joys of growing up in a foreign land.

    Women Heroes of World War II– Kathryn Atwood

    Women Heroes of World War II explores 26 stories of espionage, sabotage, resistance and rescue. These young women defied pre-subscribed gender roles  and sexism to make an extraordinary contribution to the War effort. With courage, love and strength they defied the odds in the faith of creating a better tomorrow.

    Our Tomorrow’s Never Came- Ethel Katz             

    Ethel Katz is one of HMTC’s very own Survivors. Her gripping memoir, Our Tomorrow’s Never Came, tells the story of Ethel’s harrowing experience during the Nazi reign. Ethel was able to escape death at the hands of the Nazis however, her family was lost. This beautiful work explores loss and love and will leave any reader changed.

    For more information about these books or any other books in our library please visit us on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays or call 516-571-8040

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God

    Feb- BOM ImageIn honor of Black History month, HMTC is delighted to have “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston as our book of the month.

    “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is set in Eaton, Florida and follows the story of Janie Crawford. Crawford is a person of interest as she has been married three times and was tried for the murder of one husband. This moving novel captures the complex relationships between African-Americans and whites in the time before the civil rights movement. Hurston develops a world of rich characters and fully explores the human experience.

    “A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don’t know how to live properly.”

    —Zadie Smith