3 out of 4 stars
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A Miracle at Dachau by Laurin M. Haupt tells the true story of her grandfather, Simon Johann Haupt, a prisoner in the Dachau Work Camp in Germany during the Second World War. Johann talks about his life before and after the horrors of the war and life in Dachau including the events that culminated in the miracle he experienced.
Laurin traveled from America to Bavaria to visit her grandparents. Her grandfather, affectionately called Opa, planned to take her to Augsburg on the train. On their journey, Laurin documented Opa’s memories in her journal.
Opa recalled how a depression, a failing economy, and lack of food were some of the factors that contributed to the rise of the German Workers’ Party and its leader, Adolf Hitler. Johann and his friends defied the new leadership. They were arrested and condemned to serve their time in Dachau. Hard labor, lack of food, and the constant threat of death demoralized the prisoners. The constant torture, both physical and psychological, filled his recollections. Johann needed to take several breaks in his narration of the past as waves of pain and loss overwhelmed him. When he spoke of the miracle, Laurin felt proud of her Opa and grateful that he was finally willing to open up about his past.
I liked the transparency of the narrative. Johann’s struggle to maintain his sanity while in solitary confinement and the heartbreak of wondering what had happened to his wife and daughters heightened the emotional impact of his story. Readers know what to expect when reading a book about the Holocaust. Some of those same details appear in this story, but they provoke a sharp contrast with Johann's unique miraculous experience.
Although I have read many books about the Holocaust, I found the sections where he detailed his memories of isolation, torture, humiliation, and separation from family hard to read. The vivid descriptions of what prisoners suffered brought me to tears.
I would have liked to see a picture of Johann with his family or with his granddaughter to create a stronger bond with the reader. The text does need another round of editing as there are numerous misspelled words and punctuation and capitalization errors. The inconsistency of spacing between paragraphs was a bit jarring.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The story is told in a compelling way building up to the revelation of the miracle Johann experienced. If not for the editing issues, this book would have received the full rating. Readers who find inspiration in memoirs will enjoy this story. Students of history, especially of the Second World War and the Holocaust, could add this valuable book to their collection. Sensitive readers might have difficulty with the sections dealing with the treatment of the prisoners in the camp.
A Miracle at Dachau
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