Contributed by Bonnye Matthews, written for Midwest Book Review
Sol Kotz, known as Zalman Ber in the book, tells it like it was as he and his wife, Luba, survived the Holocaust, becoming separated and rejoined time after time against incredible odds. He tells it without pretense, convincingly reliving each event, emotion checked. Kotz includes some atrocities that are difficult to read.
It’s a can’t-put-down read with no escape until the end. It’s not just words on paper. The endearing family photos included in the story are heart grabbing, personalizing their family members, causing grievous feeling to flow with the death of each. These are real people woven into a loving family - specific lives stamped out by Nazis for reasons that defy logic, born of insanity.
The veracity of the story slaps the reader in the face, full force. It’s a story of Jews who were liquidated outside the concentration camps, and how they fought back. Their liquidated number exceeded the number slaughtered in the camps. There are breath-holding moments, an example of which is Zalman Ber’s singlehandedly wiring a bridge to explode as a train crosses it. This act proves his loyalty to the resistance (partisan) fighters as they watch from a distance. The explosion destroys 90 freight cars, 45 trucks filled with military supplies and 60 German troops. Heady stuff for a young man in his early twenties. Zalman Ber joins the Russian military and continues to fight. Eventually, he and Luba come to the United States.
Although I’ve laid out a picture of seeming hopelessness, destruction and despair, Zalman Ber is primarily a love story of hope, courage and resilience - inspirational for all times and places. Despite the takeover of Germany by a deranged dictator, people not only fought back, they prevailed.
This memoir makes the plight of the Jewish people in the WWII era in Poland spring to life. Zalman Ber is a classic true story of man against evil, paralleling The Diary of Anne Frank. The memoir is exceptionally well written. With no little excitement, I very highly recommend Zalman Ber: The True Story of the Man the Nazis Could Not Kill for synagogue, community, academic Judaic Studies and World History collections. It should be made known to general readers. Also available in e-book 978-1-59433-671-3.
Zalman Ber: The True Story of the Man the Nazis Could Not Kill
Sol Kotz, as told to Lisa Mishler
P. O. Box 221974, Anchorage, AK 99522-1974
978-1- 59433-670- 6, $12.95, PB, 128 pp. www.amazon.com