by Yael Shahar
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Pub Date 04 Sep 2018 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2018
Kasva Press, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Titles
At seventeen, Alex was torn from his home and deported to Auschwitz. He
outlived his family, his faith, and his culture. His memory filled with
the death of a people, unable to speak of what he had done to survive,
he was locked in the silent prison of his guilt. This unforgettable and
breathtakingly powerful book follows Alex on his journey from the flames
of Birkenau to atonement, transformation, and redemption.
Returning is a haunting and compelling exploration of the choices we make in a choiceless time, the terrifying strength and burden of the will to survive, and the power of the human spirit to transcend even its own destruction. It will leave you changed forever.
A Note From the Publisher
Contributor: Nathan Lopes Cardozo (Afterword). Also available in hardcover (ISBN 978-1-948403-03-0) and Ebook (ISBN 978-1-948403-01-6).
From the horrors of the Birkenau crematoria and the dilemmas of survival
that are forever etched in our hearts, to the profound dialogues of
Talmudic debate, Returning reaches from the past to the
present-challenging us to examine ourselves as Jews, and our relation to
G-d in a world gone mad.
-Chaya Rosen, author of In the Shadow of God.
Returning is a must-read for those wishing to embark on a profound, painful, but ultimately hopeful journey into the human soul.
- Yael Unterman, author of Nehama Leibowitz, Teacher and Bible Scholar and The Hidden of Things: Twelve Stories of Love & Longing.
Author appearances: Israel and selected locations in the U.S.
National print and online media campaign
Local and online publicity
Book club edition
Leveraging of author's writing in local media.
Average rating from 18 members
I feel that this book should be read by everyone. At only 17 Alex was forced to perform vile and vicious acts at Auschwitz in order to save his life. He was the only member of his family to survive the atrocities at this concentration camp. He didn’t tell anyone about what he did, until much later when he felt he needed redemption. He confided with Rav Shalom by emails. Alex tells his truth about what happened at Auschwitz in a way I’ve never read before. This is an excellently written book. I highly recommend it. I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
5 unimaginable stars
God must have been on leave during the Holocaust. (Simon Wiesenthal)
This was one of the most significant memoirs that I have ever read. It transcends the words written to put you, the reader, into the heart, mind, and soul of Alex, a man destined to survive the unendurable, to lack the ability to forgive himself, and to look for help through the religion that seemed to have abandoned him. This is a story of Alex, a man who will tell you his story, tell you his unbearable pain, and find in himself the way to see himself as a survivor no matter how the Nazis tried to take his very soul. This is the man of Returning.
It is so very hard for one to imagine being a survivor, being the one person who came through while millions of others perished. One bears the guilt, the knowledge of events so horrendous that reading of them turns one's heart and mind towards revulsion over the fact that men and women did this to other men and women simply to follow an ideology that was racist in its most heinous degree. We have to keep reminding ourselves that what Alex relates eventually, through the help of a Jewish teacher, is not some bizarre piece of fiction, it was reality. It was Alex's reality and his reality is the fact that each and everyday, Alex lived every second in a nightmare world worse than any that could be conceived by anyone.
This was a story of Alex's search for forgiveness. He was a part of the Sonderkommando, forced to work in the most abhorrent condition, that of watching his fellow Jews, men, women, children, and infants condemned to the gas chambers. Hearing their screams, cleaning up the chamber after the destruction of the gas, Alex witnessed daily the role of evil that men succumbed to. He saw cruelty that was unimaginable, death that was inevitable, and life that was so devalued wondering where in this hell was God? How could God have let this carnage happen?
Alex loses everything, family, love, self respect, and the will to find God in his survival. He consoled himself for a time with the concept that he was alive to tell the story, to relate the atrocities, to be a bearer of the souls that were extinguished. However, for Alex and those like him, their survival took a horrendous toil. How could he possibly find his way once again in the world after the way he lived and what he bore witness to at seventeen years old during his time at Auschwitz?
“The fact that good people can be forced to do wrong doesn’t make them less good. But it also doesn’t make the wrong less wrong.”
It was an extremely difficult story to read, oftentimes requiring me to put aside the story as I thought of the heinousness of what Alex related. I can never understand how we, who consider ourselves members of the human could ever have let this happen. This continues to be is unfathomable, that ability to do unto others what was done to these people.
I recommend this memoir most highly. Reading this memoir is a journey through the hell that meet Alex and others everyday. It is a reminder to all that barbarity, wickedness, and monstrosities existed and still do to this very day.
Thank you to Yael Shofar, who has written a story that was passionately related, yet agonizing to read. Thank you also to Kasva Press LLC, and NetGalley for a copy of this emotionally heartrending story.
“It’s true that the hatred is still there. But it doesn’t change anything. Our obligations are the same—to live and sanctify all life with our own. To participate in the world the best we know how, leaving it a better place than we found it. To raise families and teach our children to value life. What more can we do? Should we refuse to live because of the threat of death hanging over us? We’ve always been under sentence of death. Every generation that lives out its days in peace is a victory. Every day we live is a victory.”
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