To Look a Nazi in the Eye by Kathy Kacer, Jordana Lebowitz

TO LOOK A NAZI IN THE EYE
Kathy Kacer, Jordana Lebowitz,
Young Adult Nonfiction
Second Story Press
September 12, 2017
256

The true story of nineteen-year-old Jordana Lebowitz’s time at the trial of Oskar Groening, known as the bookkeeper of Auschwitz, a man charged with being complicit in the death of more than 300,000 Jews. A granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Jordana was still not prepared for what she would see and hear. Listening to Groening’s testimony and to the Holocaust survivors who came to testify against him, Jordana came to understand that by witnessing history she gained the knowledge and legitimacy to be able to stand in the footsteps of the survivors who went before her and pass their history – her history – on to the next generation.

 

To Look at Nazi in the Eye – Could you imagine doing just that?

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To Look a Nazi in the Eye - book coverJordana Lebowitz was nineteen when she traveled to Germany and witnessed the trial of Oskar Groening, known as the bookkeeper of Auschwitz. At the time of his trial, Oskar was 94. Proving his guilt when he didn’t directly cause death with his own two hands would not be an easy feat. This trial would set a precedent – you can be found guilty of murder if you contributed to the “death machine” without actually killing anyone.

Kathy is an established author of books that bring the history of The Holocaust to readers of all ages.  Jordana Lebowitz was a teenager who found her mission in life at a young age during a visit to The Holocaust memorial. On said visit, she connected with living survivors, made lasting friendships with them, and thus began her journey to become a voice of history to future generations. Kathy Kacer, includes actual blogs written by Jordana during the time of the trial in 2015. Throughout this story we can click on any number of footnotes to see the true articles and facts.

“As I prepare to leave I am left to wonder: How can we help patch the world back together stitch by stitch into a patchwork of peace, and truly ensure Never Again?”

The witness testimonies are not word for word accurate to the trial, but they are written from true accounts of the survivors. Each of them was a child living an ordinary life. Each of them slowly saw their lives impacted by increased regulations and control over Jewish people. Their stories were heart wrenching and yet they’re only three of the millions of stories of this time period. Their courage to continuously retell their stories is admirable. Even the word admirable is an understatement. They take it as their duty to keep reliving their pain as a tribute to all of the others who are not here to do the same.

This story was near perfect for me. I don’t want to admit my reason for dropping it to a 4.5 star rating but I will. I didn’t connect with the main character, Jordana. It’s terrible to say because she is a real person, she has a relationship with the author and worked closely with her to develop this book. How could I not connect with her? She just didn’t seem real. I didn’t feel like the character’s actions were realistic. Her interactions with the judge and with Oskar during the trial didn’t feel real. I found myself thinking, “that would never really happen”. From what I read in the acknowledgements, it very likely did happen as it was told. Kathy Kacer and Jordana Lebowitz talked for years, Kacer interviewed the survivors who testified, so it must be very close to accurate. So, I feel terrible that I doubted her personality throughout the story. Maybe I’m a little bit blinded by the young people I know personally?

Kudos to Jordana!

A young person who is so passionate about the survival of history, and is so altruistic, it just doesn’t seem like she could be real. The beautiful truth is that she is a real woman who is truly on a mission to better the world. History should not be allowed to repeat itself. We should not become so disconnected from the harsh reality of history that we can pretend it never happened. Millions of people died of all ages and I am certain they never would have believed that their coming fate would be possible. Today, I can’t fathom being separated from my children and forced to work under torturous conditions. That is the reality that far too many people endured. I applaud Jordana Lebowitz for enduring such emotional turmoil and stress so that she can shoulder the story of her ancestors. She is a person of action who wants to ensure that this never happens again.

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