Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Mascot by Mark Kurzem

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.


Anonymous said...


You did not mention what the Latvian soldiers role was? Were they einsatzgruppe types?

I saw this book on Amazon and it looked interesting. Your right, whne it comes to history you just can't make this stuff up. Bizarre are the events that happen in real life.



T. Kunikov said...

Yes, like Einsatzgruppen. The author witnessed at least one mass murder in which they participated in.

Anonymous said...

This is truly one of the better books related to the subject of the Holocaust, and special because it is told through the eyes of a 5 year old child.

I read this book and it's just unforgettable. I did a review of it too on my blog.

Anonymous said...

I just watched an interview of your father on American TV. What a fascinating life he had. I especially was interested to hear that he was born in Kojdanov! My late father was born there in 1902, but fortunately immigrated to America as a child. He grew up on NY"s
Lower East Side, and became a teacher of foreign languages. What a coincidence.
Judy Weber

Anonymous said...

This book is a must read. It describes events and details from a completely different point of view. I found it captivating and one of the best books I have read. The painful truth comes to light and still I feel that this little boy who is now a 70 + old man has still not been vindicated. Even the title of the book and the authors name honor the Latvian soldiers. If it was me in Alex Kurzems shoes I would be compelled to change my name from Kurzem to my Jewish birth name to honor his dead mother, brother and sister.

Chris said...

excellent story! and though i haven't read the book, i've done a little bit of research on it's hero, alex kurzem...come see what i posted yesterday to my blog Never Again!