I read Country of Ash in one day. Not because I am a speed reader, but because it is the kind of book you just can’t put down. With several short breaks, it took me about 12 hours. About halfway into the story, the tears began flowing… and this was long after a knot had formed in my belly and nausea set in. I was overwhelmed! Just reading about the holocaust is generally enough to break one’s spirit. And though by the end I’d just about given up my faith in humanity, miracles do happen. Six million Jewish people died during World War II, yet here is one man, wife, and child who survived. It was truly a miracle that Edward Reicher lived to tell his story.
Told in a dispassionate narrative – simply stating the facts, Dr. Edward Reicher tells his experience which reads like a novel. “Country of Ash is a vivid canvas of life in the ghettos from which hardly anyone emerged alive, an almost photographic record of the suffering, cruelty, heroism, ingenuity, despair” as stated in the Forward by the translator Magda Bogin. (Pg. 7)
Journey with Edward from the comfort of his peaceful luxurious home in the town of his ancestors to the local ghetto of Lodz, the Warsaw ghetto, and finally to freedom. Separated from his wife and child when it became too dangerous to travel together, they make miraculous escapes, always in search of a place to hide and a crust of bread… at times Edward walked freely among the German SS camouflaged as a Polish railroad worker with fake identity papers. The author tells of witnessing an untold number of people getting murdered, sometimes as a group over open pits, and other times alone running in the streets of Poland trying to escape.
Some people whom he believed were dear trusted friends were quick to sneer in his face and betray him. And others – mere acquaintances and total strangers – risked their own lives to help him. Feel the hatred and witness the sadistic brutality and evil cruelty of not only the German soldiers, but the ignorant bigoted civilians of Poland. It will make you sick. From my shrieking display of emotion, you would think this was the first holocaust survivor book I’ve ever read. Not so! But it was surely the most painful and it is a story I will never forget.
When the war ended all of Edward’s extended family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances were gone. “Life was a blessing, but also a burden. I felt the chill and emptiness of a world that seemed to me like a vast cemetery”. (Pg. 240) Edward provided critical testimony in the Nuremberg trials, and the Salzburg Tribunal. Country of Ash was not published until after his death in 1975. This is the first United States publication.
Rated 5 Stars.
I use a rating scale of 1 to 5. Books rated 1, I seldom finish. Books rated 2, I usually finish but would never recommend to anyone. 5 is the highest rating.