Monday, July 7, 2014

Surviving Hitler

I was given the chance to review the book, Surviving Hitler, The Unlikely True Story of an SS Soldier and a Jewish Woman. My review is below the info about the book.

Gustav Palm kept his secret for more than forty years. He’d been a young man when Hitler invaded his native Norway. After being forced to guard a Nazi prison camp, however, Gustav took his only option for escape: he volunteered for the Waffen-SS to fight at the front.

Agnes Erdös grew up in privilege and prosperity as a child in Hungary. She and her parents were practicing Roman Catholics, but they were ethnic Jews, and after the Nazis invaded her country, Agnes and her parents were sent to the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Miraculously, both Agnes and Gustav survived. And after the war, they found each other. Told in their own words, Surviving Hitler is the story of two indomitable spirits who built on their life-altering experiences to overcome the past, help each other heal, and embrace a common faith in God that led them to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

About the Author:
O. Hakan Palm, eldest son of Gustav and Agnes Erdos Palm, has been shaped by his parent’s wartime experiences. A successful management consultant in Stockholm, Sweden, Hakan has served faithfully in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a bishop, as a member of two stake presidencies, and seven times as a counselor in the Sweden Stockholm Mission. He and his wife, Barbro, are the parents of seven children.

My review:
You know, I think when anyone thinks of the SS soldiers, we immediately think negative thoughts, that they must all be evil. This book really opened my eyes about them. Gustav was as much a victim of the war as were the Jews who were persecuted. He was later persecuted and ostracized when people found out he was an SS soldier. He wasn't given a choice whether to serve, and rather than remain a guard at the camps he didn't agree with, he put himself at the front line.  Agnes was Jewish by heritage, Hungarian by birth, and Catholic by religion.  It was her heritage that caused her to be put into a camp, leaving her rather pampered life behind.

The book is told in alternating stories of both Gustav and Agnes, which is great because you then have a very real sense of what each was doing during a certain time period (they didn't meet until after the war). Both were having disheartening experiences, and they both had very dark times, although they both also had moments of light. 

It's hard to review this without giving away too much. They are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and while the end of the book goes into their conversion and the church in their lives, it's a small part of their story. So whether you're Mormon yourself or not, theirs is a fascinating story and well worth the read.

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