Book: The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation
Author: Louise Steinman
Narrator (if applicable): n/a
Release date (if applicable): Published
Synopsis: From Goodreads.com
In the winter of 2000, Louise Steinman set out to attend an international Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau at the invitation of her Zen rabbi, who felt the Poles had gotten a “bum rap.” A bum rap? Her own mother could not bear to utter the word “Poland,” a country, Steinman was taught, that allowed and perhaps abetted the genocide that decimated Europe’s Jewish population, including members of her own extended family.
As Steinman learns more about her lost ancestors, though, she finds that the history of Polish-Jewish relations is far more complex. Although German-occupied Poland was the site of horrific Jewish persecution, Poland was for centuries the epicenter of European Jewish life. After the war, Polish-Jewish relations soured. For Poles under Communism, it was taboo to examine or discuss the country’s Jewish past. Among Jews in the Diaspora, there was little acknowledgment of the Poles’ immense suffering during its dual occupation.
Steinman’s research leads her to her grandparents’ town of Radomsko, whose eighteen thousand Jews were deported or shot during the Nazi occupation. As she delves deeper into the town’s and her family’s history, Steinman discovers a prewar past where a lively community of Jews and Catholics lived shoulder to shoulder, where a Polish Catholic painted the blue ceiling of the Radomsko synagogue, and a Jewish tinsmith roofed the spires of the Catholic church. She also uncovers untold stories of Poles who rescued their Jewish neighbors in Radomsko and helps bring these heroes to the light of day.
Returning time and again to Poland over the course of a decade, Steinman finds Poles who are seeking the truth about the past, however painful, and creating their own rituals to teach their towns about the history of their lost Jewish neighbors. This lyrical memoir chronicles her immersion in the exhilarating, discomforting, sometimes surreal, and ultimately healing process of Polish-Jewish reconciliation
My rating: 4 Stars
My opinion: Let me preface my review in saying that I love unique reads. Ms. Steinman has delivered this. While I think this book was part memoir, I feel that it could also be considered a history/current events book.
While the story was fascinating, I felt that the writing was disconnected. It almost had the feeling of someone, instead of being part of the story, was writing it from the outside looking in. It truly lacked the emotional aspect that given the topic, I felt it should have had. I felt that if there had been an inkling of emotion to the "aweness" of this story, this, hands down, would have been a 5 star read.
Genealogy people will LOVE this book. I found that aspect of the book fascinating. I was emotional with some of the incidents occurring in the book, but felt that the author was writing of them from the perspective of a historian versus that of a family...granted long removed, but still family.
Source: Beacon Press
Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone