Monday, November 28, 2022

"The Daughter of Auschwitz" by Tova Friedman - Book Review and Discussion

Trying to decide what to read next? If you enjoy historical nonfiction and stories of survival, check out my review of "The Daughter of Auschwitz" by Tova Friedman.

The Daughter of Auschwitz

by Tova Friedman

goodreads / amazon / library

 Tova Friedman was one of the youngest people to emerge from Auschwitz. After surviving the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in Central Poland where she lived as a toddler, Tova was four when she and her parents were sent to a Nazi labor camp, and almost six when she and her mother were forced into a packed cattle truck and sent to Auschwitz II, also known as the Birkenau extermination camp, while her father was transported to Dachau.

During six months of incarceration in Birkenau, Tova witnessed atrocities that she could never forget, and experienced numerous escapes from death. She is one of a handful of Jews to have entered a gas chamber and lived to tell the tale. ( from ) 

Recommended for: readers curious about a child's experience during the Holocaust, a reader who would like to learn more about Judaism through the lens of the Holocaust



Book Review and Discussion of
"The Daughter of Auschwitz" by Tova Friedman

What Worked for Me: As someone who enjoys ( side note, the word "enjoys" doesn't really fit here but I think readers understand this conflict ) reading nonfiction and fictional depictions of the Holocaust, I've found that they each bring something different to the table for discussion and education.  “The Daughter of Auschwitz” is unique in that it is packed with details about the Jewish faith and related observations about why the atrocities committed by the Nazis were especially abhorrent. 

For example, before reading this book I did not know that burial as close to death as possible is an important part of the Jewish religious tradition. Typically a proper burial should occur within 24 hours of death. Additionally, in the Jewish faith, cremation itself is forbidden. Obviously, both of these religious beliefs were deeply, and arguably purposefully, violated by the Nazis. 

Another highlight from "The Daughter of Auschwitz" is that the survivor who narrates this memoir, Tova Friedman, went on to study psychology and social work. The knowledge she gained from those studies is woven into her understanding of her experience in the camps and how she psychologically coped during that time. I found it fascinating to have that additional informed perspective as she reflected on her deeply traumatic experiences.

Things I Struggled With: While the vast majority of "The Daughter of Auschwitz" takes place in the lead up to, during, and direct aftermath of the Holocaust, around a quarter of the book, follows the author, Tova Friedman, after this event. We learn how she met her husband, started a family, made many impressive cross-continental moves, and pursued multiple degrees. To be fair to the author, this is her memoir, so of course, there are sections not directly dealing with the Holocaust. While that event was deeply formative it was also a relatively short time in her life and doesn't have to define her. 

However, after reading a good chunk of the book not directly dealing with the Holocaust, it did begin to feel tedious. On the other hand, I can see why this information was included. All of these experiences intertwined because her education and career do ultimately tie back to the Holocaust. 

Later in life, Tova becomes a social worker helping elderly people who survived the Holocaust address their trauma. This was truly a beautiful image to end her memoir with and I appreciated her sharing that part of her life with us, but I do think the details of those in-between years could have been briefer.

Have you read "The Daughter of Auschwitz" by Tova Friedman? Let me know your thoughts about the book below! If you haven't read it, let me know your favorite non fiction, or fictional, depiction of the Holocaust - I'd love to add it to my list!



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