by Charles S Weinblatt Print book : Fiction
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Jacob's Courage    (2008-08-09)
Jacob’s Courage is a very well researched novel that vividly brings the realities of the Holocaust to life through the eyes of two people, Jacob, the title character, and Rachel, the girl he falls in love with as the war breaks out and eventually marries in the Theresienstadt Ghetto, only to be separated at deportation to Auschwitz. The gripping epic story follows each of their paths from their pre-war Jewish community to their expulsions, their ghetto life, their separation via deportations, their experiences in slave labor camps, in death camps, in the resistance, on death marches, and their liberations and miraculous reunification. In each setting, the vivid portrayals of the travails of the principals and the other characters in the novel bring the experience of the Holocaust to life on a personal level. The book depicts the brutality of the Nazis and their henchmen, exposing the demonic and cruel nature of too many human beings during that era. The characters are faced with hard choices of life and death, betrayal and loyalty. The events of the novel are gut wrenching and heart rending.
The book could just as well been called Jacob and Rachel’s Courage as the parallel stories of each of their experiences during the Holocaust exhibit equal measures of courage in the face of depravity and adversity that seems too incredible to believe were it not an accurate depiction of the reality of what took place in the heart of 20<sup>th</sup> century Europe. It well fulfills the role of good historical fiction by giving the reader the experience of living through an historical event by depicting the many aspects of life at that time through the experiences of the central and secondary characters. First time author Weinblatt is very successful in this regard. His Holocaust is very real and very accurate in the descriptions of the locales and the conditions of existence of each setting. The people that populate the novel are not merely two dimensional archetypes or clichés but fully formed humans with frailties and shortcomings in addition to positive qualities.
Although it is a novel, it is an excellent primer on the Holocaust. The reader will be left with a very accurate understanding of this cataclysmic time from a historical perspective, but with the additional emotions evoked that a dry history book cannot provide. Perhaps this is its greatest strength. Though the book is epic in length and scope, Weinblatt’s characters and characterizations compel the reader to read onward. At the end of the read one feels both hope and admiration for the human spirit that can endure and survive the ordeals of the various victims depicted, although fictional but not unlike experiences endured by actual survivors, and disgust and despair with the dark side of the human spirit because the historical facts of the Holocaust in which the novel is set are all too true.
Hindea Markowicz is Director of the Ruth Fajerman Markowicz Holocaust Resource Center of Greater Toledo.
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