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Book Review: Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwarz

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Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwartz is a novel which follows a group of holocaust survivors from their liberation to the twilight of their life. This is a moving narrative of people with no country and no home.

Covering several decades, the book is divided into three sections,beginning in 1945. At the Bergen-Belsen refugee camp several people meet and become those that the book follows. Pavel, Fela, Chaim, Berel, Dvora and their daughter Sima all become “Displaced Persons” or DPs.

The novel follows their struggles and trials throughout their lives in Europe and eventually in the US.

Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwartz is a post World War II survival story. An evocative novel which follows holocaust survivors for decades after their liberation. The content of the story is very interesting and thought provoking.

What I found most interesting is how, living through decades after being liberated, the world treats the survivors differently. The perspective is not only that of the survivors themselves, but also of the society around them. That is the aspect of the book I liked most: society has not treated the survivors generously as we might like to imagine. For many years they were seen as weaklings, walking to the gas chambers like sheep to the slaughter.

Ms. Schwartz follows the survivors and gets into their mindset; they have been through the worst mankind can throw at them and have persevered. They don’t complain, share or talk about the past; they simply grunt and take the punches life throws at them quietly and with dignity.

The characters in the book are strong, resilient, complex and profound — even though there was no one I could identify with. They are three dimensional, real and face hardships and struggles like the rest of us, only with a huge amount of baggage.

At times, however, I found myself getting disconnected from the story. It might have been the writing style, even though the book is well written, or the sticky and emotional subject matter. This is not a quick read, but a deep, sometimes disturbing exploration of the long term impact and injuries the holocaust created.

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