Discover Compassion

From the JFR Library – September 2013

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This month The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR) recommends Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland, 1939-1945 by Richard Reicher.  Country of Ash was reviewed by Mike Fisher in Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel. His review follows:

country-of-ash“At 5 a.m., physician Edward Reicher and his wife, Pola, both Jewish, awoke to the sound of German bombs falling on an airfield near their home in Poland. It was Sept. 1, 1939 …

Reicher’s story moves quickly through an initial stay in the Lodz ghetto – in which 200,000 Jews were “parked” in an area barely fit for 30,000 – before taking us to the bigger one in Warsaw, filled with “emaciated faces already marked by death.”

As the pace of deportations picks up, he and his family escape the ghetto and begin a nervy cat-and-mouse game, changing hideouts throughout Warsaw while trying to pass as Aryan. They stow their daughter in a convent. A bleached-blond Pola gets a job as a domestic. A disguised Reicher works in the rail yards…

We listen to a boyhood chum tell Reicher to give over his childhood home, since “you and your father will soon be exterminated.” We look on with a crowd of peasants, which includes an agonized Reicher, as Jewish friends he’d planned on meeting for dinner are executed. We see a young teen yank a gold crown from Reicher’s tooth, claiming it’s payback for Jewish extortion.

But we also watch the improbable cast of characters who help keep Reicher alive. A Polish countess. An aging prostitute. An anti-Semitic but also deeply religious Russian. A young farmer. A Viennese doctor. A German policeman, who falls hard for Pola’s sister…

But it’s the rough texture of Reicher’s tale – like grainy celluloid from a bygone era – that gives such a powerful, deeply disturbing immediacy to the ghetto inhabitants he remembers. Reicher tells us they’re no more, but he is wrong. Their ghosts still walk in books like this one – haunting the reader, forever.”

To purchase this book, click here. This link will take you to our bookstore, from where your purchase through helps support the work of The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.

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