I’ve always enjoyed history, even taking two history classes my senior year of high school when most people dropped history altogether. My interest is usually peaked by a historical fiction piece, after which I go crazy researching a time period or a country on Wikipedia (I know, I know, it’s not an accurate resource) and ordering countless books from the library. Once I satisfy my curiosity, I move on.
Holocaust is the one event in history that has held my interest for many many years. In this instance, my interest was peaked by the two years I spent at a Jewish school. History classes were obviously centered on Jewish history, and were culminated by trips to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C., and finally THE museum in Israel. If Holocaust was only a concept before, it definitely became a reality after spending two weeks in Israel, and touring the museum that was literally the size of a small town.
I’ve read many Holocaust memoirs, and I think every single one is important in its own right; it’s crucial to remember the horrors of the Holocaust so that we do not repeat the past. We are quickly coming to a time when there will be no living Holocaust survivors. That fact alone makes Scheisshaus Luck: Surviving the Unspeakable in Auschwitz and Dora even more relevant and necessary. Penned by Pierre Berg shortly after his move to the U.S. in the 1940s, and spent many years locked in his drawer. Thankfully, the memoir did see the light of day and was published in 2008.
Arrested at the age of 18, Pierre Berg spent time at a holding camp in Drancy, was transferred to Monowitz (part of Auschwitz), and eventually to Dora. Pierre is very frank in describing his experiences, from the nightmarish train ride to Auschwitz, to becoming almost immune to all the death around him, and the indignities tolerated by the prisoners in order to survive. One story that stayed with me long after I finished the book was that of the officers using human bodies to catch eels in the river. (many argue that the officials did not have a choice in carrying out the mass murders – it was do or die; this story and many others show that their cruelty went far and above what was ordered)
While the subject of the memoir is dark and depressing in itself, I felt that Pierre’s message was, “Don’t feel bad for me. This is what I went through, I survived, and I just want others to learn about what happened”. Pierre Berg’s memoir is an effective counter attack on those who believe that Holocaust is nothing more than a Jewish conspiracy. Pierre was a French gentile, and his experiences in German labor and concentration camps confirm that Holocaust was a reality, not a conspiracy made up to advance the interests of Jewish people. All the while, his writing style is youthful, candid, and extremely readable. I found myself horrified, amused and intensely interested all in one.
After reading Scheisshaus Luck, I wanted to express my gratitude to Mr. Berg for sharing his experiences with us readers. I located his profile on MySpace, and wrote a short note. Surprisingly, he was quick to respond and to say this: “My dream is not to be a bestseller but that my memoir is read by students and sits in every library.”
Other favorites on the subject:
I would love for everyone to read this book, so I’m giving away hardcover copies to 2 readers chosen at random! Please e-mail me me with your name, and I will put your name in a fishbowl. I will pick the winners on March 15th.