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Book Reviews of The Mascot: The Extraordinary Story of a Jewish Boy and an SS Extermination Squad

The Mascot: The Extraordinary Story of a Jewish Boy and an SS Extermination Squad
The Mascot The Extraordinary Story of a Jewish Boy and an SS Extermination Squad
Author: Mark Kurzem
ISBN-13: 9781846040511
ISBN-10: 1846040515
Pages: 352
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

5 stars, based on 1 rating
Publisher: Rider & Co
Book Type: Paperback
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rolfeswife avatar reviewed The Mascot: The Extraordinary Story of a Jewish Boy and an SS Extermination Squad on + 83 more book reviews
This is the story of Uldis Kurzemnieks, by birth Ilya Galperin, a Jewish boy caught in the turning wheels of the Nazi onslaught and Holocaust. To the best of his memory, Uldis/Ilya tells his story to his son, the book's author, Mark Kurzem, and his memory seems remarkable indeed for one so very young. In bits and puzzle pieces, the now elderly man recalls his childhood of close escape from Nazis executing Jews in Belarus, his mother and siblings of those who did not survive. After six months wandering in the woods, eating berries, wrapping himself in the coat of a dead soldier, the boy is rescued by a group of Latvian SS soldiers who subsequently transform him into something of a miniature soldier-mascot. They treat him well. But here is the flux of the circumstance: the very ones who save his life are also the same who execute more Jews, and not all of them realize that the boy is Jewish, too. This is the story of extreme paradox, in which we see that one man, one group of soldiers, can exhibit mercy just as they exhibit unspeakable cruelty. Perhaps all soldiers can say the same.

The horror of the Holocaust is incomprehensible and unforgivable. Many are accountable, by commission just as by ommission of deed. No doubt, young Uldis witnessed in very close encounter the worst of humanity and suffered lifelong for it. What makes my Latvian heart ache, aside from this, however, is that the author of this book sweeps with just as broad a brush across another nation--the Latvians--as was swept across his--the Jews--as if an entire nation of peoples can be called wholly good or evil. Indeed, very few individuals can be called one or the other, but contain a blend of both, let alone an entire country be crossed off as such.

The irony of this is that the Latvian nation has suffered a very similar fate and at almost the same moment in time. This is a tiny Baltic country that has been occupied by one great power or another through almost its entire history. We, too, have been herded onto cattle cars in the dark of the night at gunpoint, our children and elderly executed, deported to concentration camps in Siberia, our property, our homes and land and businesses annihilated or stolen from us, our families dispersed, our freedom denied us, and lived through many years of strategic genocide. Kurzem accuses us of whitewashing our history to hide our sins against the Jews. I would argue that ALL histories are a mix of truth and propaganda; look to its source to find its slant. We, too, carry a mark of guilt on our foreheads, and I will not deny it. We owe apologies, even as apologies are owed us. Caught between two superpowers, two great evils, we made hard choices that I am not equipped to defend or accuse in that I myself have never stood in such a position, nor my own child, my own home so threatened. Only those who have stood in such a place, can relate to this horror of the HOLOCAUST. I HAVE NEVER READ A MORE FASCINATING TRUE , ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT , WONDERFUL STORY OF SURVIVAL..
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