Friday, January 29, 2016

Love in a World of Sorrow by Fanya Gottesfeld Heller

This book describes Holocaust reality as we have never encountered it before. From the unrelenting fear of death and gnawing pain of hunger, to the budding relationships of an adolescent girl growing into womanhood during the worst of all times, the author withholds nothing. Fanya Gottesfeld Heller's subtle depiction of her parents’ knowledge that it was a non-Jew's love for their daughter that had moved him to hide them, and their embarrassment and ultimate acceptance of the situation, lead us to wonder how we would have acted under the same circumstances as father, mother, or daughter. Love in a World of Sorrow features Fanya's gripping tale of survival and an updated foreword and epilogue by the author, reflecting more than a decade of experience bearing witness to the Holocaust before hundreds of audiences around the world. On the reading list at Princeton University, the University of Connecticut, and Ben Gurion University of the Negev, among others. Fanya Gottesfeld Heller's book is an indispensable educational tool for teaching future generations about the human potential for both good and evil.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I cannot give enough praise to Mrs. Heller for sharing her story with the world. This book was phenomenally riveting and will leave a lasting impact in my memory. I have had an interest in the Holocaust for some time now and this book has stood out to me by far. It does not get much more real than this.

Most people are familiar with the horrors of the Holocaust, but this book brings the reader right into them. This first person account made me feel very much in the moment. It was an emotional roller coaster and a more personal education of the Nazi invasion.

Everything I expected was there, but there was so much more along with it. Fanya tells all of the personal details that I'm sure many just wanted to forget and couldn't force themselves to recall. Every moment, no matter how large or small, is shared to create a complete story. The happiness of the early times in her life through the horror and suffering and even on to post Holocaust are all included. I applaud her for including even the most humiliating and even shameful things that she suffered through or did to survive where others may have chosen to leave them out of their stories. Fanya's own personal journey throughout her life completely amazes me and I admire her as a person for everything she went through and for the person she strove to become in the aftermath.

This book is not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to read it, I highly recommend it and am glad that I took the time to read it.

Fanya Gottesfeld Heller was born in 1924 into a traditional Jewish family in the small Ukrainian village of Skala. Just over a decade later, Fanya was beset by hunger, marked for death, and faced with the constant threat of execution. Fanya, her parents and brother were hidden from the Nazi death squads through the kindness of two Christian rescuers, a Polish farmer and a Ukrainian militiaman. Despite the incomprehensible conditions, Fanya miraculously survived to live a full life and shares her message of hope.

Love in a World of Sorrow: A Teenage Girl’s Holocaust Memoirs documents her family’s wartime existence and her complex relationships with her rescuers.

Fanya’s original intent in writing her book, was to uncover the truth about the death of her father which to this day remains unexplained. But in writing her memoirs, she came to understand the importance of her story both as family history for her children and grandchildren and as a contribution to the Holocaust record. The publication of her book was greeted with warm praise for her bravery and described the difficult choices she had to make as she did everything possible to insure the survival of her family.

Her friend, fellow survivor and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel has said, “Everyone who listens to a witness, becomes a witness himself.” In reading Fanya’s story, you too will become a witness.

Love in a World of Sorrow: A Teenage Girl’s Holocaust Memoirs is included in the curriculum of prestigious educational institutions including Princeton University, Yale, and The University of Connecticut. It served as the basis for her film, Teenage Witness: The Fanya Heller Story, released in 2010 when it was broadcast on PBS and its affiliate stations. Narrated by Richard Gere, the film tells Fanya’s story of survival through archival clips, photographs and live action testimonials and reflects her interaction with inner city teens.

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Jacki reviewed her personal copy of Love in a World of Sorrow: A Teenage Girl's Holocaust Memoirs by Fanya Gottesfeld Heller for this post.

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