Book Review- I Only Wanted to Live by Arie Tamir
As Holocaust survivors pass away, books like I Only Wanted to Live: The Struggle of a Boy to Survive the Holocaust will become even more important. While many people want to rewrite history and downplay the Holocaust or even deny that it ever happened, books like this will help us to remember this horrible atrocity that claimed over six million lives. Only an estimated 500,000 survivors are still alive today and these are all elderly men and women. Preserving their story is so important.
Arie Tamir was just a child when World War II started. He was a Polish Jew whose parents were upper middle class. Arie was only seven years old when Germany invaded Poland. I Only Wanted to Live lets us see some of the events of World War II through eyes of a child.
As the book progresses, he shares scenes that were seared into his mind as a young child. Arie is an excellent story-teller and the passage of years have not dimmed his memories. In many cases, he provides other sources that corroborate his story. In the first part of the book, he shares his fascination with the German soldiers. He loved how they were dressed and how professional they looked. They often gave him candy so he thought they were wonderful.
In time, however, Arie comes to understand that the Germans are not his friends. His family was forced out of their beautiful apartment into the Jewish ghetto. Arie witnessed the first deportations of Jews to labor camps. His parents were able to avoid the first several deportations, but eventually his entire family was forced like cattle onto a train for a concentration camp.
Arie, however, managed to escape. He was able to slip away from the crowd and avoid getting deported. As he was hiding and watching from a distance, he saw the Germans beating and shooting those who did not move fast enough to get on the trains.
Even though he was still young, only twelve years by this time, Arie was able to survive on his own for several months. Eventually, he found his way to the camp where his family was being held. He managed to escape death several times at this camp but saw many others murdered by the Germans. He witnessed the murder of his father after the man became to weak to work. Arie did not see it, but he heard of his mother and sister’s executions as well.
And then, just when it seemed that Arie would succumb to sickness or be killed by the Germans, the war ended and he was liberated by the Americans. He was thirteen years old at the war’s end. After the war, Arie was active in the founding of the Nation of Israel and fought in the fledgling Israeli army.
If you have never read a book about the Holocaust, read this one. If you are a history buff like I am, you will love I Only Wanted to Live. This is an exciting and sobering look at World War II from the eyes of a child.
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