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this has happened: An Italian Family in Auschwitz

This has happened: An Italian Family in Auschwitz, by Piera Sonnino (Palgrave Macmillan, July 2009, Paperback, $12.95)

As David Denby noted in the introduction, it would be easy to approach this memoir as yet another piece of Holocaust writing to fall in among all the others, a painful reminder of the worst human nature can conjure. But Piera Sonnino’s account of her life and the deaths of her family in the concentration camps of Nazi Europe were shockingly fresh to me, a different telling of the horrors countless many experienced.  Her voice is so immediate that we are thrust into the day-to-day struggle for barest survival with a new awareness of the tenuousness of sanity it would have required.

This account itself is short and in spite of the subject, graceful.  I read it in less than an hour, forgetting the bookshop that surrounded me, almost feeling the unspeakable mud Sonnino describes beneath my own feet.  The fore and afterwords help contextualize Piera’s story, and also serve to lead the reader in and out of the shadow of the valley of death the story itself leads us through.  This is an important addition to Holocaust literature that should be read, and absorbed by everyone.  Lest we forget.

 

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