Jafa Wallach~~4 1/2 and 5 Star Reviews

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Bitter Freedom--Memoir of a Holocaust Survivor

Jafa Wallach
Gihon River Press.
Trade Paperback

     Holocaust books have special meaning as they tell what happened under the Nazis in World War II and before. The occupation of Poland and the establishment of Ghettos is often the theme of many of these books. What makes Bitter Freedom stand out from the rest is how several family members were able to survive in the face of extreme odds against them.
Historically, Germany and Russia were allies at the start of the occupation of Poland. A river divided the two segments so that the Nazi regime was on one side and the Russians were on the other side. People who lived on either side of the river found themselves having to live with different types of oppression. Nazis shot Jews, Gypsies, the infirmed, and put them in concentration camps if they were lucky enough to survive. Russians took away land ownership, animals, crops, and said they belonged to everyone. Those who were still alive struggled to make sense of all the turmoil. Bitter Freedom is the story of unbelievable circumstances, which enabled a husband, wife, and her two brothers to survive the fate of six million Jews throughout Europe. Natan Wallach was a physician who was able to continue aiding the ill until it became apparent he and his wife would suffer the fate of the rest of the Jews in their area.
      Escaping from a fenced enclosure during a confused period when the Nazi soldiers were not sure of their roles, Natan and Jafa Wallach had one of those ironic twists of fate. Guards for a period of a few days left the gates open, and the couple just walked out of their confinement.  Natan and Jafa sought refuge at the home of the town's mechanic.  When they first entered this underground hideout, they had a small shovel with which to dig out a space to lie in. Little did they realize at the time that they would be there for the next 22 months. The mechanic, Jozef Zwonarz, was the only person who knew they were in this 5 x 4 foot hole, which was 4 feet deep. During the day, they had to be silent.  Twenty feet away was the Gestapo headquarters with their trained German Shepherds. 
During this entire period, it appeared to the Nazis that Jozef Zwonarz was a patriot for the German cause. In reality, he was a saboteur who put salt in their gas tanks, aided the underground, and got food for his hidden friends.
     Many twists and turns that take place with regard to the survival of the Wallach family, showing how under the most oppressive conditions the will to survive can conquer the evil that some men do to others. Even after liberation by the Russians, the Wallach's had many harrowing experiences until they emigrated to the United States in May 1947.
Clark Isaacs

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