Many times I'm asked why I study history, specifically that of the Second World War. This book is what they should read if they want to understand my answer. Even today, over half a century later, the Second World War affects lives and more so helps make up national character for a multitude of countries throughout the world. This story first attracted me when I read an article about it online, a Jewish child used as a Mascot by those fighting on the side of Nazi Germany? Was I surprised? No, reading "Europa Europa" was more than enough to convince me that history is more powerful than any human imagination. Thus, while I wasn't surprised I was intrigued, how did the child survive?
This book, while starting out slowly (I kept yelling at it to pick up the pace and get to the point within the first hundred or so pages) picks up pretty quickly after that, 2-3 days reading is more than enough to tackle all of its 400 pages. The beginning of the book is mainly a rendition of memories, by bits and pieces, of a man who is trying to recall who he was in an almost past life. By the time one gets to the end, much of what seemed like it couldn't possibly mean anything takes on a whole new meaning. I would hate to ruin any of it for future readers so I'll only say a few words.
A boy escapes into the forest and witnesses the death of his mother, brother, and sister. He survives to be found by Latvian soldiers in the service of the Germans and is raised partly by them and partly by a rich Latvian and his family who owns a chocolate factory. It took him over half a century to finally tell his story to his family and with the help of a few people the mysteries that he could never understand, words he could never put into context, were all solved for him. Easily one of the better books I've read in a long time about the Holocaust, even though the concentration is less the Holocaust as a whole and more a struggle of one 6 year old boy to survive and over 60 years later to find out his true past and identity. Highly recommended.