4 out of 4 stars
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Holocaust, the catastrophe that caused the deaths of many Jews and other people, was a subject that Andrew Burian could not speak about for 51 years. The Germans (Nazi soldiers) stole his childhood (he was thirteen years old when they were captured), his family, and his home. Through much probing, especially by his children, Burian chose to break his silence about what he had seen and experienced during the Holocaust. This gave birth to A Boy From Bustina: A son. A Survivor. A Witness
The book is divided into four parts/sections. It also has an epilogue, a prologue, and a postscript. Andrew Burian recounts the events that took place in his childhood (in the first two sections) and the atrocities that the Jews faced during the Hitler-led massacre of the Jews. Burian noted, “This is my story. This is what happened to me. It happened to others too, but never in exactly the same way, nor has it affected their lives in the same way. Each experience is as unique as man himself…”
I enjoyed learning about the author’s family in the first section of the book. I experienced the loving bond in the author’s nuclear family: his father (Ernest), mother (Matilda), and brother (Tibor). They also had a good relationship with their extended family, and it was always a delight to spend time together, especially during Sabbath. Unbeknownst to them, Hitler and his Nazi soldiers were devising a plan to eliminate them all. When he was thirteen years old, Burian and his family were driven from their home in Bustina and taken to a ghetto from where they were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau (German concentration camp).
The events that followed after the family was driven away from their home made the book hard to read. There are times when I had to put the book down as tears clouded my eyes. I could not believe how cruel human beings could get. Thirteen-year-old Andrew Burian, one of the youngest survivors of the Holocaust, would spend days in pain and agony without the pleasure of comfort from his family. Fear, hunger, harsh weather conditions, and the pain of watching people die made life unbearable at the detention camp. Burian said “on more than one occasion, bread was grabbed out of my hand by other prisoners, or my jaw was forcibly squeezed open to steal the food that was already in my mouth. I couldn’t chew and swallow fast enough. That is how hungry and desperate they were.” It was such an agonizing state.
It was a painful experience to learn about the conditions of the concentration camps and the murder of the Jews. Having witnessed how the German soldiers would take their prisoners to the gas chambers and later cremate them, Burian believes that a mighty hand coupled with his survival tactics enabled him to escape death. At some point, the number of Jews awaiting their death exceeded the facility’s capacity. Burian said, “The entire camp smelled of death. The ashes were falling on us like in a volcanic eruption. The crematoria could not keep up with the load, so the Nazis were burning people in open pyres on the side and at the back of the crematoria.” I felt the author's pain as he went from one day to the other without knowing what to expect while watching his fellow Jews being murdered. I could not believe the Germans and their accomplices were worse than vultures and beasts.
The book was professionally edited. It contains some horrific scenes. Thus, readers who cannot handle horror scenes should not think about reading this one. Jewish and American historians will find the book very helpful. I strongly recommend it to Jews. It gives a clear picture of what other Jews went through in the hands of Nazi Germans and their accomplices. For having in-depth information about the Holocaust and for the author’s brevity, I give this book 4 out of 4 stars.
A Boy From Bustina
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