F0r Passover, I received a gift from a friend of my mother’s as a thank-you for letting her come to our Passover Seder. Unusual for Passover to receive a gift, but I was extremely grateful to receive the gift, and heck, Kelly was grateful for the chance to attend a Passover Seder. The gift: signed copies of “From A Name To A Number: A Holocaust Survivor’s Autobiography” by Alter Weiner. As the focus of my History major is the Holocaust and yesterday I wrote a post about the dehumanization that occurred during the Nazi regime, I thought it’d be appropriate to finish the book over Shabbas and review it here. Later I’ll send it to Kelly (apparently she manages the author’s Facebook page for the book).
First, I’d like to say that this book is very touching (what do you expect?). But also, it’s very revealing. Covering the author’s entire life from his younger years, to the deportation and incarceration in five different concentration camps, to liberation and resettlement in Israel, and later life in America, where to this day Mr. Weiner goes to high schools, churches, and even prisons to tell his story and let people know what his life is like.
Some things came to me while I read this book. First, that the Holocaust left many of its victims with PTSD. I already knew this, but hearing it for the first time from a survivor, even if only in book format, made me realize how much Mr. Weiner was suffering years after the Holocaust. While many contemporaries of his and his own family brushed off his constant preoccupation with the Holocaust, the reader’s own emotions are stirred and we want to reach out and hug the author over the distance.
Second, how lucky we are. I have a loving family, a fairly liberal society, and I’m getting a great education. Mr. Weiner’s formal education ended at age 13, when the Nazis took over Poland. He lost most of his family shortly thereafter, and lived in slavery and horrifying conditions for three whole years. It’s affected his very person to this day, and it makes the reader appreciate his/her blessings.
And finally, we learn the evil of hate. “Hate hatred and shun violence”, Mr. Weiner implores several times throughout the book. Indeed, I find it hard to hate anyone on a daily basis, but now it’s even harder for me after reading this. I hope Mr. Weiner’s story affects all others similarly and that you treasure this book for years to come.
On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this book a well-deserved 5 out of 5, for reminding me to count all my blessings and to love my life no matter what. I hope you pick up a copy and read it yourself so you can see the magical effect of this autobiography by a living treasure.