REVIEW: I Have Lived A Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson

Have you read The Diary of a Young Girl. Anne Frank (Puffin Modern Classics)?

“Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” records the events of the Holocaust from a young adult’s perspective, she did it in hiding from an attic in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I’ve always felt a painful irony for Anne Frank because she died a little after World War 2 ended when they were free to leave the space they had confined themselves to.

On the other hand, I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up In The Holocaust is a memoir of a 13 year old Hungarian Jewish girl, Elli Friedmann, who survived the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz with her mother. Elli’s (or Livia’s) memoir begins in 1944 but the choronological list of events at the back of the book noted that her father’s business was ordered to close in 1938.

When the book begins, we read about Elli’s strained relationship with her mother, who somehow prefers her brunette and brown-eyed brother, Bubi. Elli is blonde and blue-eyed and yearns fro a more affectionate relationship with her mother.

When she complains to her mother about her getting “no hug and no words of endearment”, her mother responds:

“I don’t believe in cuddling,” Mommy explains with a smile. “Life is tough, and cuddling makes you soft. How will you face life’s difficulties if I keep cuddling you? You’re too sensitive as it is. If I would take you in my lap, you’d never want to get off…You’d become as soft as butter, unable to stand up to life’s challenges.”

Do you think this is true? My mother was never affectionate with us and she used to comment that the relationship between the mother and daughter of “Gilmore Girls” is pure fiction.

Pardon the stray thought…maybe Elli’s mother was right because she turned out to be a really plucky girl when she was:

  • forced to surrender her brand new Schwinn bicycle, a birthday present from her parents, to the German SS troops;
  • asked to strip naked in front of soldiers;
  • painfully shorn of her beautiful, golden locks;
  • starved of food and water for days;
  • tasked with caring for her mother who became partially paralyzed after an accident

She also states clearly in the foreword that she wrote her book with the hope that:

“…learning about past evils will help us to avoid them in the future. My hope is that learning what horrors can result from prejudice and intolerance, we can cultivate a commitment to fight prejudice and intolerance.

My stories are of gas chambers, shootings, electrified fences, torture, scorching sun, mental abuse and constant threat of death.

But they are also stories of faith, hope, triumph and love. They are stories of perseverance, loyalty, courage in the face of overwhelming odds, and of never giving up.

My story is my message: Never give up.”

Reading “I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up In The Holocaust“, I can only imagine how much the Jews had suffered under Hitler’s administration that it’s not easy to let this slide.

However, in the foreword and also throughout the book, Livia Bitton-Jackson doesn’t come across as bitter – reading about her experiences, I feel like I am watching a documentary.

[rating: 4.5/5]

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  • Sounds like an interesting book 😀

  • Kit Link

    It is! You should read the book if you can get it…