25 May 2022



In early 1940 Chaim Herszman was locked in to the Lódz Ghetto in Poland. Hungry, fearless and determined, he goes on scavenging missions outside the wire limits, until he is forced to kill a Nazi guard. That moment changes the course of his life, and sets him on an unbelievable adventure across enemy lines.

Chaim avoids grenade and rifle fire on the Russian border, shelters with a German family in Berlin, falls in love in occupied France, is captured on a mountain pass in Spain, gets interrogated as a potential Nazi spy in Britain, and eventually fights for everything he believes in as part of the British Army. He protects his life by posing as an Aryan boy with a crucifix around his neck, and fights for his life through terrible and astonishing circumstances.

Escape from the Ghetto is about a normal boy who faced extermination by the Nazis in the ghetto or a Nazi deathcamp, and the extraordinary life he led in avoiding that fate. It’s a bittersweet story about epic hope, beauty amidst horror, and the triumph of the human spirit. ... Back Cover Blurb {May contain what are considered spoiler, simply scroll over hidden portion to hi-light text} 

There were three of us. ... Part 1, Heniek: Chapter 1

His shock of almost white was like a klaxon. In these circumstances, to assert his status as a Jew, Chaim would immediately start cursing and speaking very loudly in Yiddish. That generally did the trick and diverted them. A peremptory or demanded flash of Chaim's dick might nevertheless occasionally still be necessary to seal the deal. Sometimes all three of us would have to show them what we had. Very undignified, but better than a beating. Three circumcised penises hanging together could only mean one thing: Jews.

Sealing the deal in this way didn't necessarily mean we always got away without being thumped, although I like to think if we were still smacked it wouldn't be as comprehensively or viciously as might have been the case if our fellow Jews thought we were goyim. What probably annoyed or irked them was our non-Jewish appearances implied pathways from or out of the kind of prosecution Jewish looking Jews had to put up with on a daily basis. Several comments I heard suggested being a Jew who didn't look like one was cheating: a cowardly contrivance adopted only to avoid their own unenviable fate. ... Memorable Moment, Pages 12 & 13

The exceptional story of Chaim Herszman who not uncommonly anglicised his name to Henry Carr in the mid-1940's, a 13 year old boy who fled Poland only to arrive in Britain aged 17 where officials suspicious of his extraordinary tale believed him to be a German spy.

Drawn from many hours of tape-recorded conversations and transcribed interviews which took place over many years, Escape From The Ghetto is written by Carr's son, John, using, as much as is possible, his father's own words, much of it then corroborated through extensive additional interviews and research.

An OK read, not as good as many of the other books of this genre but, in its favour, setting it apart, there was the fact that many of the events, though by no means not all of them, took place, not in a concentration camp, but rather a ghetto, the Lódz Ghetto in Poland. 

Whilst the scene was set beautifully with descriptions of the barbed wire enclosing the ghetto, the narrative didn't generally get bogged down in too much detail, the author I'm guessing relying on the reader to know and understand the background of events to give some context. However, that said, the book, especially the earlier chapters, felt a bit, hmm, laborious, the author spending what to me seemed like an inordinate amount of time on a game of football.

A bitter sweet read for sure ... and yet one that oddly enough failed to move me as much as I had expected; no doubt in part due to the fact that it was written in such a way that it was sometimes hard to remember that it wasn't a work of fiction, an adventure story featuring the daring do's of some random young man, but a true-life story, this man's father's story.

Originally published by a small publishers, the book, not surprisingly, came to the attention of a much larger publisher; hopefully this will entail a more thorough editing which will sort out some of the issues, the typing errors, the poor continuity etc that besieged the particular edition that I read.


Kelly said...

True, there don't seem to be as many books out there that take place in the Polish Ghetto. A shame this was just an OK read. If you're like me, you almost feel guilty for not liking a story better when it's based on an author's real life connections and events. Hopefully a new editor will help get this one in a little better shape.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Sounds unique, to be sure. Would be interesting to see what you think should you get a chance to read the new publisher's edition.

nightwingsraven said...

While keeping in mind some of
your objections against the book.
It still piqued my curiosity
and I will keep it in mind.
And thank you for your excellent

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

I complain if there isn't enough information on a book jacket to tell me what to expect from the read, then on the other hand I moan if there are too many spoilers which give nearly everything away without me needing to read all the padding in the middle! It must be quite difficult for an author to decide just how much to reveal in the premise of a book, as they are never going to keep everyone happy!

It is such a coincidence that this story is set in the Lodz Ghetto in Poland, as that is where the opening of a book I recently read takes place. 'The Midwife Of Auschwitz' (my last but one post, which I don't think you saw) doesn't have quite the same claim to real events as your own story, but it is in essence, based upon researched facts.

I know you didn't feel able to rave over this book, however I might still add it to my 'wish list', and it would be good to read it whilst Lodz is still fresh in my mind.

Thanks for sharing :)

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

Interesting. I might give this one a go.