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A Lucky Child


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Thomas Buergenthal served for more than ten years as the American judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague before returning to the United States in September 2010. He is a former President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and former member of the UN Human Rights Committee, and was the 2014 recipient of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Elie Wiesel Award.


Not many children who entered Auschwitz lived to tell the tale. The American judge at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Czechoslovakia-born Buergenthal, is one of the few. A 10-year-old inmate in August 1944 at Birkenau, Buergenthal was one of the death camp's youngest prisoners. He miraculously survived, thanks, among others, to a friendly kapo who made him an errand boy. Buergenthal's authentic, moving tale reveals that his lifelong commitment to human rights sprang from the ashes of Auschwitz. 16 b&w photos, 1 map. (Apr. 20) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-Buergenthal was elected American judge at the International Court of Justice, The Hague, in 2000. He is a survivor of Auschwitz, one in a succession of several labor, prison, and death camps where he spent his 10th and 11th years. An excellent and evocative storyteller, he finds that the distance of time allows him to ask questions about how his experiences in a Polish ghetto, the fact that he was able to stay with his father during his early concentration camp months, and his reunion with his mother after liberation and before his 13th birthday shaped him, and also helped him to survive in the worst Holocaust scenarios. Illustrating the vivid word images he creates with snapshots of his prewar and postwar life (the former saved by a neighbor in spite of her fears that the Nazis would discover her Jewish sympathy), this is a well-constructed, warm, insightful visit with the man. He knows that he was both lucky and well served by the plasticity of a youth that really had no "ordinary" contrast against which he might have turned and lost hope, will, and the strength to keep alive emotionally and physically. In addition to being an excellent curriculum-support text, the fine writing and insights here make this book a powerful choice for teens looking for a mentor through emotional and political challenges of their own.-Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

As a boy at Auschwitz, Buergenthal apparently avoided its killing process because of administrative chaos but was separated from his parents. His story is especially interesting for its detail of his postwar experiences, reconnecting with prisoners who'd helped him, and living in an orphanage in Eastern Europe until his mother found him. Buergenthal regards the Holocaust as a moral compass for his life's path as a judge on the International Criminal Court in The Hague. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/09.]-Frederic Krome, Univ. of Cincinnati Clermont Coll. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"In the plainest words and the steadiest tones, Thomas Buergenthal delivers to us the child he once was. History and memory fail to ebb; rather, they accelerate and proliferate, and Buergenthal's voice is now more thunderous than ever. A work of visionary compassion." Cynthia Ozick, author of Heir to the Glimmering World"
"An extraordinary story, simply and beautifully told. Heartbreaking and thrilling, it examines what it means to be human, in every good and awful sense. Thomas Buergenthal remembers and renders the small mysteries and grand passions of childhood, even a childhood lived under the most horrific circumstances." Elizabeth McCracken, author of An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination"
"The unsentimental tone of Buergenthal's writing magnifies his deliberate decision not to make melodrama out of a story that is plenty dramatic enough. Like Primo Levi and Anne Frank, Buergenthal can only tell the story of one life, but through that life we are led to consider and honor all the lives of those who weren't so lucky." Kate Braestrup, author of Here If You Need Me"
"Reminiscent of Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel...Buergenthal [speaks] most eloquently for the millions of Holocaust victims who cannot." The Oklahoman"
"An incredible tale." The Free Lance-Star"
"Buergenthal's authentic, moving tale reveals that his lifelong commitment to human rights sprang from the ashes of Auschwitz." Publishers Weekly"
"Powerful....The author's story is astonishing and moving, and his capacity for forgiveness is remarkably heartening. An important new voice joins the chorus of survivors." Kirkus Reviews"
"A remarkable, sometimes astonishing story of finding protection and kindness from unlikely sources, uncanny narrow escapes and a powerfully strong will to live." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution"
"You think you've heard it all....But this one is different. The clear, nonhectoring prose makes Buergenthal's personal story-and the enduring ethical questions it prompts-the stuff of a fast, gripping read." Booklist "
"A Lucky Child does not wallow in the horrors nor does it shirk the darkest events. It is a clear-headed account of Buergenthal's experiences and how they determined his life." The Sydney Morning Herald"

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