October 26, 2012

Book review: The Thirty Six

Thoughts on holocaust writers and a review of The Thirty Six by Siegmund Siegrich

Something that fascinates me about first-hand accounts of the holocaust is the tone used by the narrators. It may be due to the fact that most stories have needed to be translated, but I have found all I have read on this topic to be quite blunt and spare. It is minimalist writing; the kind where the facts are told without much added description and the narrative moves from event to event with little reflection. Perhaps this is because many of the tellers of these stories were not writers by profession, but I think it is also a product of that specific kind of experience.

Being subjected routinely to acts of incredible cruelty, living on adrenaline and having to endure unthinkable suffering, there is little time for introspection. Every day of having survived might come as a surprise, nothing is taken for granted and allowing emotions to surface could potentially destroy a person. The way these people write reflects that mentality, as though their experiences seem surreal to them or as though it happened to someone else.

The Thirty Six is a wonderful story due to the positivity of Siegrich in spite of the appalling nature of what he endured. I couldn’t stop reading it, fascinated by the insanity of it all and disgusted by the fact that it was a true story. Mr Siegrich I have a lot of respect for, and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about what people are capable of, in both survival and cruelty. This is a profoundly affecting book. I am still upset reflecting on the fact that these things happened to such a lovely gentleman, and so many others did not make it out of the death camps.


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