Review Country of Ash by Edward Reicher

August 8, 2013

To read this book, you should have an iron stomach. You’ll have to be very strong to bear the intense emotions you’ll feel when you keep in your hands Country of Ash, an historical and biographical book written by Edward Reicher, a Jewish doctor, dermatologist and physician lived in Poland during Nazi occupation lasted from 1939 to 1945.

The book is subtitled just “A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945“. This tale moved me why is focused on a terrible event of history, a fact where millions of people died. This tragic event is named Holocaust. The author tells his tragic experience in the Lodz Ghetto, a zone where Reicher lived with his wife Pola and his little daughter Elizabeth, called only Elzunia.

Through 253 pages Reicher gives a compelling account of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and offers us a story that looks like a fiction or a movie but that is awfully true. The tragedy of Poland and Reicher’s family began a hot evening of autumn in 1939, when German air forces destroyed the zone around Lodz, a country where Reicher was born and lived.

That day, nobody could imagine what would happen. The buildings and the houses owned by Jews were seized by German soldiers together with precious, jewels, money and gold coins. Many people were carried on a cattle car or truck to be brought to concentration camps or gas chambers. During the occupation in Poland, hundreds of thousands Jews were killed with no raison, shot on the spot, gassed or incinerated.

In his book Reicher describes carefully the terrible borders of this tragedy, by showing even stories where cruelty and humanity are intertwined with hope and desire to escape.

The story of Reicher is just a long experience to seek of fleeing from the Ghetto, surviving and saving his beloved family. I still remember my tears on my cheeks when I read the most moving pages of Country of Ash. The book also talks about thousands of people locked in cellars of a few square meters, where it was impossible even to urinate or breathe.

Reicher managed to escape and find random hideouts. Other Jews lay in these narrow spaces and when a baby began to cry, the prisoners pressed against him a pillow to silence him, so that nobody could discover where they were. In this way, the babies often died, just some of them managed to survive.

Reading Country of Ash, you’ll find out that German officers and soldiers, the same people, rather beasts, capable to kill merciless other people, feared the dark like children and many of them suffered from venereal diseases they transmitted to little girls kept in schools for Jews prisoners.

Reicher was also the eyewitness of those crimes of war and appeared in 1961 at a tribunal in Salzburg to identify the authors of war crimes. His book is a heartfelt account of one the most tragic and darkness moment of history.

Country of Ash also talks about all of the persons who helped Reicher and his family to hide or escape. This is not a book of revenge,  but a work to not forget and forgive, but above all to teach the younger generations that similar tragedies must never more happen. Never more!

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