Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Book Review: 'When I Fall, I Shall Rise: A Holocaust Survivor Memoir' by Dan Shtauber

When I Fall, I Shall Rise by Dan Shtauber
‘I experienced a miracle and stayed alive. God let me live’.

Israeli author Dan Shtauber earned his BA in computer sciences and is a computer specialist. He also writes children’s books. This impressive biography is of Dan’s grandmother and her experiences in the Holocaust. 

Before Dan opens the pages of his intensely well documented life of his grandmother Risa Shtauber He offers the following – ‘Ever since I was a young child, the family visits to grandfather Motale and grandmother Risa in Rehovot were a special experience. At every visit I would receive candy, and sometimes a toy. Grandmother’s and grandfather’s house was always suffused with a warm and pampering atmosphere. Not only for us, the grandchildren, but also for many other acquaintances. Grandmother loved to cook, to bake and to host. Therefore, on many of the occasions I was there, I ate my lunch and dinner together with other friends and acquaintances of grandfather and grandmother. As a child, I noticed the number tattooed on my grandmother’s wrist. I was always intrigued by it. My grandmother would simply tell me that the Germans did that to her. Obviously as a child I understood that something bad had been done to her, but I did not understand the true significance and the terrible backstory of the number. As I grew up, I became more aware of grandmother’s past during the holocaust. Grandmother always wanted to share her experiences. Grandfather preferred to keep his silence and spoke little of the holocaust before he passed away in 2001. To my sorrow, I rarely had the patience and curiosity to sit down with grandmother and really listen and inquire. All I got was very general information, and I always thought that I would be able to know more whenever I wanted to. Usually this moment never arrives, not before it is too late. In 1997, within the framework of a monumental memorialization project by Yad Vashem, my grandmother shared her personal Holocaust story. The family received the tapes on which grandmother’s testimony was taken. I closely guarded them – but to my sorrow never watched them fully. In January 2016, I decided that in honor of grandmother’s 92nd birthday I wished to gift her with a book recording her travails during the holocausts. This book is based on the recordings but tells the story in a more organized manner. I have no doubt that the book was a very special gift for Grandmother, as well as for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He who reads the book will have the opportunity of growing familiar with my grandmother’s life story.’

What follows is one of the more realistic yet sensitively related history of his grandmother’s childhood in Hungary, the onset of WW II and the accompanying Holocaust, the horrors of being in the ghetto and subsequently transported to both Plaszow and Auschwitz with all the atmosphere and tragedies that accompany those times, the end of the war, the final move to Israel, and the details of her life having survived the Holocaust. 

The writing is realistic in detail but at all times respectful and honoring the spirit of a grand lady. This is a deeply touching book but also one of the better personalized survival accounts of that heinous tragedy. It is a fine source of fact and an even finer source of compassion. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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