Monday, April 05, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Surviving the Angel of Death

Surviving the Angel of Death. The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz. Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Buccieri. 2009. [November 2009]. Tanglewood Press. 175 pages.

The doors of the train car were thrown all the way open for the first time in many days, the light of day shining upon us like a blessing.

Such a good book! It is a compelling story about the Holocaust. Eva and Miriam are twins. And the fact that they're twins, it saves their lives. Because they are twins, they are not sent to the gas chambers upon arrival. (Like the rest of their family.) Because they are twins, they join the other sets of twins in the camp. They become part of Dr. Josef Mengele's scientific experiments.

Not that surviving was easy. Their heads were still shaved. Their arms were still tattooed. They still faced starvation and malnutrition. They were still plagued by lice. And dysentery. But they were in some ways 'the lucky ones.' If you consider it luck to be an experiment, a human guinea pig.
I took those shots as the price we had to pay to survive, we gave them our blood, our bodies, our pride, our dignity, and in turn, they let us live one more day. I cannot remember a single twin who did not cooperate.
In those days we didn't know what the experiments were for or what we were injected with. Later we found out that Dr. Mengele purposely gave some twins dangerous, life-threatening diseases such as scarlet fever... (46)
Eva was surrounded by death and despair. (There was a very thin line separating the living and the dead.) As she says in chapter five, "Being in Auschwitz was like being in a car accident every single day. Every single day something terrifying happened" (43). But Eva clung to hope, clung to her sister.
It was said at the time that six sets of twins had gone to that lab and been killed. I never witnessed anyone being killed; I only knew that some of the twins disappeared. But I did eventually learn that the rumors were correct, that twins were dying from some of the experiments. We were told they had become "very sick." Then Mengele would simply replace them with fresh sets of twins who had just arrived on transport trains. That is how even the most privileged prisoners at Auschwitz were viewed. Not even Mengele's favorites were treated as humans. We were replaceable. Disposable. (46)
Did you know that Joseph Mengele experimented on twins? I knew a very little about him--knew that he experimented on humans during World War II. That he had a twisted interest in medicine and science. But I didn't know about his interest in twins.

I found this one to be incredibly compelling. The narrative to be simple and straight forward yet powerful. I definitely recommend this one!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tina's Blog said...

My library just got this book in...I will definitely have to reserve it.

Unknown said...

Great review...and one I'll definitely be checking out. This really hits home with me as I have twin daughters. I CANNOT imagine such atrocities and human horrors! I've done a good deal of research on the WWII era and Holocaust, but I've never read a book that focuses solely on the 'twin experiments.'
Thanks again for sharing!

Unknown said...

I want to read this one, definitely.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Putting this one on hold at the library this very second!

Alexia said...

Me too! I've just secured an order from, paid through AmazonPremium, arrival date tomorrow!! can't wait to get my hands on it!!!!!!!!!

Anna said...

Children of the Flames is another book about the Mengele twins. It also mentions Eva and Miriam. I'll have to check this one out.

I've linked to your review on the Book Reviews: WWII page on War Through the Generations.

Diary of an Eccentric