Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review--The Seamstress

    If you are feint of heart or would rather turn a blind eye to the uglier parts of human history, then this book might not be for you. But, if, like me, you feel the best way to touch the past is through the chronicles of real experiences, then The Seamstress is a perfect choice... perfect, not because of the topic, which is anything but, but rather because only through facing the deepest and darkest corners of man's nature can we ever become enlightened.
    Having myself written--on behalf of my father--a World War II memoir, I was eager to read this one, though I knew that it would cause great sadness... as it should. Countless Holocaust books have been written, but then again, countless Holocaust tragedies were experienced.
    Seren Tuvel Bernstein's memoir is striking, like Elie Wiesel's classic, Night,  in that this particular survivor speaks in a clear voice, untainted by anger, bitterness, or enmity. Digging deeply into her painful memories, Ms. Bernstein recounts the joys of her pre-war life, and contrasts it with the downward spiral into war, and the horrors of the time she spent in Ravensbrück, one of Hitler's most notorious labor/death camps. Ravensbrück was unique in that it housed only women... tens of thousands of women... many of whom endured unspeakable experiments, and certainly terrifying and inhumane conditions.
    Ms. Bernstein chronicles the experience of surviving not only one camp, but two, the second being the infamous Dachau, which I have visited, and it is a place that will never leave me. Ms. Bernstein survived that camp's liberation weighing only 44 pounds; it is hard to imagine that life can be maintained at such a level, but man's resiliency is astounding, and Ms. Bernstein was lucky enough to be more hardy--both physically and emotionally--than many.
     Having been a part of my own father's revisiting of the war, I can relate very well to the experience Louise Loots Thorton and Marlene Bernstein Samuels, the "writers/interviewers" of Ms. Bernstein's memories, so I read this book with that in mind, remembering the difficulties I had getting my father to open up about particularly painful experiences.
    Some stories should be shared far and wide, the better to remind us of the scope of human suffering... and of the capacity for human compassion and love. The Seamstress is just such a book, a gift to us all, and it is with respect for all those who suffered, that I share it.

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