Ala Silberman Is Training To Be A Dancer When The Germans Invade Warsaw Together With Almost Half A Million Other Jews, Ala And Her Family Are Forced Into The Ghetto, Where She Struggles With Feelings Of Guilt At Her Comparative Privileged Circumstances Then Ala S Enigmatic Teacher Forms A Dance Company With The Intention Of Putting On A Performance For The Ghetto S ResidentsMax Silberman, Ala S Uncle, Is A Bachelor, Who Still Carries The Flame For The Girl He Knew At University She Married Someone Else And He Hasn T Seen Her For Over A Decade When He Meets Her In The Ghetto And Discovers She And Her Two Children Have Been Abandoned By Her Catholic Husband All His Dormant Hopes Are Incongruously Revived Amidst The Squalor And Destitution Surrounding HimIn The Warsaw Ghetto Tells The Deeply Moving Story Of Ala And Max S Struggle To Preserve Their Aspirations In The Midst Of The Inhumane Conditions Of The Warsaw Ghetto, Until The Deportations To The Death Camps Begin And The Jews Organise Themselves Into A Fighting Force Determined To Oppose The Nazis 4.5 starsThis is the third book by Glenn Haybittle that I have read about the Holocaust and each of them was powerful in its own way I found this one to be tense and brutal and equally as important in spite of how hard it is to read at times The novel depicts the Polish Jews who were forced to live hungry, under horrible conditions, taken from their homes, many of whom were herded to death camps and many who were randomly shot dead on the street In alternating narratives, this horrific time in Warsaw from 1940 1943 is told by Ala a young woman, eighteen, an aspiring ballet dancer and her Uncle Max, an introspective, brooding man who has never married since the love of his life married another man Even though forced from their comfortable homes, they aren t immediately impacted They have places to live, food and Ala still has her dance But they witness dead bodies in the street, homeless children, round ups to the camps and the horrific shootings right in front of them There s an ominous feeling that it will be a matter of time before they are personally impacted So they live their daily lives amid the horror, the bombs , Nazis in the streets randomly shooting people waiting for the worst.I liked Max s narrative than Ala s and was so moved when he meets his former lover in the ghetto and cares for her and her two daughters the irony that it was because of the ghetto that they are reunited is not lost Ala s felt at times a little too YA for me There are numerous things here that reflect the complexity of their lives Jewish identity, resistance, Zionism, aspirations, desires, coming of age, the meaning of family , all of these things now impacted in a major way because of their life in the ghetto, because of the Nazis It s a Holocaust story so it was inevitable that it was sad beyond words, horrific, gut wrenching, but the Postscript is both moving and beautiful.I received an advanced copy of this book from Cheyne Walk through NetGalley. A very moving story of what the Jews in Warsaw went through under the yoke of the Nazis Initially we see the two central characters largely in terms of their aspirations for the future Ala, eighteen, wants to be a professional ballet dancer and is on the right path Max, fifty and unmarried, feels himself to be something of a failure Both however find a sense of purpose in the deplorable conditions of the ghetto, which are vividly evoked Then the deportations to Treblinka begin and for the rest of the novel my heart was continually in my mouth It s difficult to say without spoiling the riveting and unexpected plot Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC. This is one of the most dramatic historical fiction novels I have read this summer It is a quick read because of the intensity and it does not hold back Through Ala and Max, the reader is thrown on a wild ride in the ghetto of Warsaw The authenticity of the characters in this novel is unparalleled, and their thoughts throughout the entire novel are real and meaningful, yet heart breaking The graphic and gory scenes experienced and seen by Ala and Max punctuates the scale of the nightmare endured by those living within the ghetto s walls.Through the perspectives of Ala, still a teen, and Max, in his late thirties, the reader is quickly immersed into the relocation of Jews moving into the ghetto As part of the high class society, family members of Ala and Max swiftly cling to their prominence by joining the Judenrat where the reader sees corrupt behavior, nefarious lawlessness, and deceit among Jews Ala and Max struggle to adapt and survive the inhumane conditions of the largest Jewish ghetto of WWII while seeking to maintain their sense of humanity The awful thing is I feel shame and compassion every day but it doesn t fundamentally change my behavior Both Ala and Max continue to examine that the plight of survival has exposed the most unsavory things about themselves Meanwhile, the Jewish political parties pull for Ala and Max to join their cause eventually leading to the bloodbath of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising There are notable sexual situations and thoughts embedded in this novel But, why not The sexual instances were outwardly used to reveal that not only were these characters very much human with human feelings, but that principles and integrity were still accounted for even when the world around them was crumbling It lent credibility to the circumstances teenagers were probably still thinking about it, and people were still having it Examples of these scenes Firstly, he couldn t believe the size of the man s organSecondly, he had never heard of a woman putting a penis in her mouth Ala pictures herself dancing naked for him Most of Ala s secrets are related to sex view spoiler I expected the sign language that was strongly presented at the beginning to be tied into the story in some way But it was very loosely done, so it felt like that symbolism was abandoned and derailed I am still confused as to the significance of it s inclusion hide spoiler Wow, this book was certainly some read I have read lots of books set during World War II and this has been one of the most gripping and haunting stories I have ever encountered In the Warsaw Ghetto focuses on two central characters of Ala and Max and their experiences in the Warsaw Ghetto I was enthralled from start to finish, it s an epic story that I read in one day I really enjoyed this book apart from one thing, the amount of sexual reference I felt that they were really unnecessary and took focus away from the real story of survival ship That s why I ve lopped off a star Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for this ARC In The Warsaw Ghetto by Glenn Haybittle A work of novel fiction basses on historical fact All of mankind faces death. Some without warning and some by horrendous torture I have read a good many books about WWII and the atrocities committed by the Germans But none set by the bar of this book Ala Silberman is a young womanchild training to be a dancer when the Nazis take over Poland And, even in the depths of hell inside the ghetto, people make art, cook and dream.make love and sing and become conditioned to survival amongst unspeakable tragedy The author has written so very eloquently of life and death I highly recommend To be published in 2019. Well written and well researched novel about The Warsaw Ghetto from its establishment in 1940 until its liquidation in 1943 The characters are alive on every page and the steadily growing tension becomes almost unbearable There s none of the syrupy sentimentality or chick lit froth that is often deployed to sweeten Holocaust novels here And the ending is movingly powerful. In the Warsaw ghetto is a wonderful book based on life inside one of the degrading settlements established to debase and ultimately wipeout the Jews during Hitler s regime in World War 2 This was written from an entirely different perspective however We followed the lives of Ala and her uncle Max, two somewhat wealthier Jews who initially did not suffer from the poverty and malnourishment inflicted on those living in the ghetto like so many who perished around them They were good people who thrived on helping others I particularly loved the references to Dr Korsack and his young orphans which were introduced occasionally through the novel as I really enjoyed that novel Ala s life continued as normal as much as possible while simultaneously witnessing those she knew so well fall around her Her interest in sex and the growing desires of a young woman was a new angle not previously explored to such an extent in holocaust literature in my experience, and the author did so showing a great depth of understanding The descriptive language used was well composed and assisted the reader form detailed images of every scene The novel drew me in and as it progressed and in the second half of the novel I couldn t read quickly enough, so was the eagerness I felt to discover what became of Sabina, Ora, Engenia, Marcel, Zanek, Max and Ala The ending fitted the novel well however it was not at all the ending that I anticipated I would recommend this novel to all I don t often give 5 starts but I feel in this instance 5 stars are highly deserved Thank you to Netgalley for a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.I truly enjoyed this book, Haybittle did a wonderful job bringing his characters, Ala and Max Silberman to life in an honest and heartbreaking fashion As a lover of all things World War II with the focus on the Holocaust, this was one of the most seemingly realistic portrayal of the hardships that the Jewish people faced in the ghettos Starting from the beginning of the Ghetto to it s destruction in 1943, this was a hard hitting portrayal that has stuck with me In fact, it took several days to process prior to being able to try to get my thoughts down in order to write this review.I found the characters to be full of depth and development throughout the story There are certain points that I found to be unnecessary with Ala s relationships, but that is a really minor point I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of realistic historical fiction If you enjoyed my review, thanks You can find me on instagram my_bookishthoughts First up, thanks to NetGalley and Cheyne Walk for letting me have a review copy The following contains spoilers In The Warsaw Ghetto weaves the twinned narrative of dance student, Ala Silberman, and her uncle, Max, following them from the opening days of the Second World War, through to the destruction of the Jewish ghetto in 1943.We first meet them in conversation, before their narratives split, sharing memories and ambitions, and the tranquility and ease of that sunlit scene will soon seem like something precious and distant The vibration of approaching planes cuts across the final lines of the first chapter, and then the reverberations start to impact through Ala and Max s comfortable lives By the third chapter, Ala is crouching in a cellar as bombs bring down the city streets above.The writing is beautifully precise and evocative, taking us from the serenity of pre war nights on rivers to the sudden sensory overload of living in a bombarded, broken and occupied city While there is still leisure to return to such places, Max remembers He finds himself remembering the night boat trips with his father The boat easing through the black current The moonlight silvering the whispering reeds and the leaves overhead The air pungent with resin and algae and wet earth The whisper of the willow leaves trailing in the water His father standing with the oar, as if he owned and orchestrated the entire night But soon so much of the city that they know is reshaping around them, and with that we feel their balance and security start to shift After all, this is a Jewish family, and we re in Poland in 1939 This part of Warsaw has always been an extension of home for her, part of her shape, a responsive intimate part of her identity So much she was attached to, so much that lent her footholding weight is now obliterated It s as if one of the mirrors by which she recognises herself has ceased to reflect her The teetering balancing act of unsupported walls makes her feel unsteady on her own legs Buildings taken for granted are no longer standing There are voids where previously history stood Feathers like snowflakes rise up into the smoke infested air as if she is inside a macabre snow globe This is a portrait of the city of Warsaw as much as it is the story of this family As war begins to impact every aspect of its population s lives, so we see adults infantilized and children carrying the weapons of soldiers Everyone is acting parts, dressing up, telling lies And it all intensifies is yet discordant as Ala and her family must move into the Jewish ghetto There are no parks in the ghetto barely any trees She misses the smell of the refreshed earth, the flickering green light beneath overhanging foliage, the flight of birds over water She misses the distinctive individual timbre of each of Warsaw s church bells She misses walking home at night through the fragrance of tree pollen and the laughter of lovers Only books now enable her to experience many of the blessings of the natural world she loves but has never until now fully appreciated She lives wholeheartedly inside every novel she reads What I found most unsettling about this novel wasn t so much the very high death toll, as the petty cruelties that it describes These are the images that will stay with me the men made to strip in the streets and exchange clothes, the women ordered to clean public toilets with their underwear, those who are made to dance and leapfrog, all for fleeting, macabre amusement It s the vindictiveness and the humiliations which are so disturbing Then she has to watch her father kneel down on the pavement to untie the laces of his built up shoe and feels a murderous surge of hatred for the German with the pink cloddish face which frightens her When both men have stripped down to their underwear the German orders them to take off their undergarments too Ala averts her eyes at the sight of her hollow chested, knobbly kneed father naked in the street It feels like a fisted hand has hold of her heart No daughter should ever have to stand by helpless witnessing the public humiliation and distress of her father But both Ala and Max have inner lives and inner strength, something to take them out of the ugliness and corruption and duplicity going on all around them Ala lives through dance, and even in the darkest days there is a wellspring of vitality that she can access in the rhythms and shapes of her muscles For Max strength comes from the hope of rekindling a relationship with Sabina, the woman who was just always slightly out of reach in his youth, but who he is now suddenly able to shelter As he takes on the responsibility of Sabina and her children, so Max finds new purpose and pride Every morning he wakes up to a renewed sense of wonder and excitement Beginning with the ritual of breakfast when the sleepy sulky faces of Ora and Eugenia, smelling of peppermint, rouse an ache of protective tenderness in him How available to harm are their young bodies and ripening personalities has already prompted in him a consuming resolve to put all his resources of love and care at their disposal We see war bring out the worst in people the selfish, the venal, the cruel , but it also, just occasionally, shows them at their best heroic, thoughtful and generous Max, in particular, grows as fear and protectiveness make him into a kinder and braver man He even surprises himself But, as he finds reason to hope and to care, so the walls seem to be closing in and the odds are shortening.As the all around violence rises to a crescendo, like the characters, I found myself becoming slightly desensitized to it When Ala s grandmother is murdered, within paragraphs I d forgotten it, just as Ala does too Had that happened in the opening chapters of the novel, it would be a pivotal and shocking moment, which, I guess, shows the impact of the build up of terror that the novel delineates But then, having watched Max invest so much will in his relationship with Sabina, the moment when she is killed is shocking As the months pass, life is the ghetto becomes so precarious Everything is fragile, on a hair trigger and no one can be trusted It s summed up in the image of Max acrobatically mapping his way across the rooftops and Ala walking the plank But then, as Max leaves the ghetto, ventures out into the bright, clean, technicolor world beyond, where there is still green grass and fountains and children eat buns in parks, he feels so terribly vulnerable He feels like giving up All proprietary space around him has collapsed Anyone is free to abuse him in any manner they choose He has the social rights of a spider or an ant And the world seems a place overrun with vile people His knotted stomach never stops reminding him that this homeless walk through the streets of Warsaw is a death defying undertaking He is overly conscious of his every step, as if walking on a frozen lake The violence which builds through the book is unrelenting, wave upon wave, until the kindnesses are just rare splashes of intense colour It s not a book for the squeamish reader, I d say don t come here for a cheery or a gently romantic story of war but there s something grown up and unflinchingly candid in its portrayal of the experience of the Warsaw Jews Nothing is softened, prettied up or made palatable for a sensitive audience, and I admired it for that.5 stars for fabulously evocative writing, for genuinely disturbing me, and making me realise that I ought to learn about this subject Impactful Enthralling So very sad. Hauntingly beautiful Our narrators are Ala and Max, a teenage girl training to dance and her middle aged uncle still carrying the ache of his first, unrequited love in his heart Max and Ala have status and money than many of the Jews moved into the ghetto Even so, the atrocities they find there are horrifying Each struggles and manages to find beauty, any beauty at all, in their circumstances We follow Ala and Max from pre Ghetto to post Ghetto and become witness to some of the ordinary, and extraordinary, life experiences that many of us take for granted Glenn Haybittle has one heck of a way with words I highlighted countless sentences and paragraphs of flowing, almost lyrical, writing I haven t read anything else by this author, but I know I shall in the future I will highly recommend this book to my friends, family, Goodreads friends, and Facebook groups.Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read and review InTheWarsawGhetto All thoughts and opinions above are my own.
- 384 pages
- In the Warsaw Ghetto
- Glenn Haybittle
- 09 August 2019 Glenn Haybittle