A Holocaust survivor reflects on his childhood in Nazi concentration camps, and the hardships of being a postwar refugee, in this deeply moving memoir written with surprising wit and uplifting humor.
In 1939, 12-year-old Felix Weinberg lost everything: hope, home, and even his own identity. Born into a respectable Czech family, Felix’s early years were idyllic. But when Nazi persecution threatened in 1938, his father travelled to England, hoping to arrange for his family to emigrate there. His efforts came too late—and his wife and children fell into the hands of the Fascist occupiers.
Thus begins a harrowing tale of survival, horror, and determination. Over the following years, Felix survived 5 concentration camps, including Terezín, Auschwitz and Birkenau, as well as the Death March from Blechhammer in 1945. Losing both his brother and mother in the camps, Felix was liberated at Buchenwald and eventually reunited at the age of 17 with his father in Britain, where they built a new life together.
An extraordinary memoir, as well as a meditation on the nature of memory. It helps us understand why the Holocaust remains a singular presence at the heart of historical debate.
About the Author
Felix Weinberg was a Holocaust survivor from Czechoslovakia who settled in Britain after the war. Despite his formal education having been cut short at age twelve, he won a place at university and later become the first professor of Combustion Physics at Imperial College London. He was also a fellow of the Royal Society. He was the author or editor of four books and more than 220 scientific papers. Internationally acknowledged as a leading thinker in his field, he was awarded a D.Sc. by the University of London (1961), both the Silver (1972) and the Bernard Lewis Gold (1980) Medals of the Combustion Institute, Fellowship of the Royal Society (1983), the Royal Society’s Rumford Medal (1988), the D.Sc. Honoris Causa by Technion, Haifa (1990), the Italgas Prize for Energy Sciences (Turin Academy, 1991), and the Smolenski Medal of the Polish Academy of Science (1999), as well as being elected to the American National Academy of Engineering as a Foreign Associate in 2001. The Hugh Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award for contributions to Combustion Physics was conferred on him in 2005 (Institute of Physics). He died in December 2012.
“Moving – and genuine.” —Daily Mail
“An unusually good-natured memoir about life in the Nazi camps and the travails of being a postwar refugee. Weinberg ... has a quick, curious mind...A revelation ... told with both candor and odd innocence.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Told with an honest, contemporary, sometimes wry viewpoint, Weinberg’s graphic memories are haunting, as he searches the Web and historical archives to find out now what he did not know then, while it was happening to him: where he was marching, how many died. The dual perspective, then and now, and the blend of family intimacy (including occasional photos) with the gripping, authoritative historical overview make this an essential title for discussion.” —Booklist
“All those who care about the proper documenting of this horrendous era must be grateful to Felix Weinberg for giving us this insightful and ultimately uplifting account.” —Suzanne Bardgett, Imperial War Museum
“A very witty and highly readable account of life in Nazi camps, with truly original information and an amazing sense of humour. A great lesson in resilience, survival, hope – and genuine modesty.” —Gilbert Achcar, The Arabs and the Holocaust
“A sensitive, witty, intelligent – and ultimately, extremely moving – memoir.” —Richard Zimler, author of The Warsaw Anagrams
“Felix Weinberg’s memoir stands out from other Holocaust memoirs in its accomplished style, its powers of exact recollection and depiction and in its dry humour.” —Professor Charmian Brinson, author of The Strange Case of Dora Fabian and Mathilde Wurm
“With a detachment that makes the telling all the more powerful, Felix Weinberg has given witness to what he saw and experienced through the terror, misery and absurdity of his teenage years ... [It] is the reply of a boy who escaped annihilation and found that by staying alive he could think, study, research and eventually teach at the highest level. In the face of genocide on any people, anywhere at any time, the book is the ultimate response: that we exist and have the right to exist. I wasn’t only moved by it. I was strengthened by it.” —Michael Rosen, author, poet