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I Have Lived a Thousand Years


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About the Author

Livia Bitton Jackson, born Elli L. Friedmann in Czechoslovakia, was liberated in 1945 from Auschwitz and came to the United States on a refugee boat in 1951. She has a Ph.D in Hebrew Culture and Jewish History and currently lectures on the Holocaust, Israel and Women in Judaism. Dr Bitton-Jackson is married and lives in New York and Israel.


Gr 7 Up‘In 1944, Elli Friedmann, a 13-year-old Hungarian Jew, is deported with her family to Auschwitz. Her blonde braids and tall stature save her from instant death in the crematorium. During the following year, Elli and her mother survive terrible suffering and injustice through sheer courage, perseverance, and ingenuity. The teen matures from a naive child concerned with boys and bicycles to a toughened, traumatized‘yet still hopeful‘young woman. This is a chilling account of concentration camps and humankind's capacity for inhumanity. The horrors are not prettified or watered down and are appropriately nightmarish. Unfortunately, the book has two flaws. First, Bitton-Jackson tells her story in the present tense, or tries to; but the voice is inconsistent, and the results are awkward and, at times, confusing. Second, not all the segments are complete. For instance, early in Auschwitz, Elli sees blood running down the legs of a menstruating woman and wonders how she'll feel when her period arrives; but nothing else is mentioned on the subject. The author's adult book, Elli: Coming of Age in the Holocaust (Times, 1980; o.p.)‘from which this book is adapted‘provides the answers to this and other questions. Despite these drawbacks, I Have Lived a Thousand Years is a gripping story that teaches important lessons. It will be a valuable addition to any Holocaust collection.‘Ann W. Moore, Schenectady County Public Library, NY

Born in a small farming town in Hungary, Bitton-Jackson was 13 when Nazis forced her and her family into a Jewish ghetto and then sent them to Auschwitz. After a yearful of innumerable harrowing experiences, she was liberated. While the facts alone command attention, Bitton-Jackson's supple and measured writing would compel the reader even if applied to a less momentous subject. She brings an artist's recall to childhood experiences, conveying them so as to stir fresh empathy in the target audience, even those well-versed in Holocaust literature. She relates, for example, how the yellow star made her feel marked and humiliated, reluctant to attend her school's graduation; how existence in the ghetto, paradoxically, made her happy to be Jewish for the first time in her life; how an aunt terrified the family by destroying their most valuable belongings before deportation, so that the Germans could not profit by them. Her descriptions of Auschwitz and labor camps are brutal, frank and terrifying, all the more so because she keeps her observations personal and immediate, avoiding the sweeping rhetoric that has, understandably, become a staple of much Holocaust testimony. Of particular interest is her relationship with her mother, who survived with her (in part because of the author's determination and bravery after an accident left her mother temporarily paralyzed). An exceptional story, exceptionally well told. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

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