Courage and Grace By Yoseph Komem

Courage and Grace is a memoir from a child’s perspective on surviving World War II in Poland.  Additionally, the author includes an account from his father and other relatives that detail and support his testimony of how they made it through the invasion from Germany and liberation by Russia.  The book contains a lot of historically significant pictures and documents that anyone interested in studying this historical period would find fascinating.  This book is different from many of the Holocaust books I have read in that only one member of the family ended up in a concentration camp and while there are some details concerning those accounts most of the story is spent detailing how the family hid and obtained documents to continue living outside ghettos as well as continue to work.  The father of the family is deaf and led a very different life from what you normally read in these types of memoirs.  My favorite fact about the father of the family was they actually made the black out curtains that were used during the war and produced them for the Germans.  This was a very unique account to read.

The book is really well written and kept my attention despite its intimidating length.  The documents and pictures the author included were amazing to look at.  The story isn’t as gory or heartbreaking as the other accounts I have read although there certainly is pain and suffering in the stories; the author choses to describe them simply and move on so the reader doesn’t feel as emotionally turbulent.  The author has taken great care to accurately tell the story of his family and close friends to preserve this history for others.  I also was glad he included what happened to them after the war and how tough it still was as the resettling began.  None of the accounts that I have read go on to describe what exactly happened after the war and it was interesting to read how the family was rebuilt and how it still wasn’t a quick transition back from an anti-Semanticist atmosphere.

I wish the author had not made the book into such an outline.  I would have much preferred alternating chapters of his father and his accounts instead of reading each separately because it felt like just reading two books on the same thing and I feel it could have been condensed greatly if the author had mixed both he and his father’s accounts.  That is about the only complaint I have with the book.  I thank the author for the diagrams to see how everyone related to each other because that was a little hard with all the assumed alias names and so forth but there’s simply no correcting that and I feel the author did his best with it.

In all, this was a very unique and worth while read of the World War II Holocaust and how many Jewish and Polish people were able to avoid being sent to a concentration camp as well as how those affected settled back into life after the war was over.  I highly recommend this as part of the regular reading people would usually be directed to like Corrie Ten Boom and Ellie Weisel.  The author preserved the history of how his family contributed to their survival as well as many around them during this harsh period of war.

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