My Stripes Were Earned In Hell: A French Resistance Fighter's Memoir of Survival in a Nazi Prison Camp

Jean-Pierre Renouard, Author
Jean-Pierre Renouard. Rowman & Littlefield, $29.95 (136p) ISBN 978-1-4422-1399-9
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 12/01/2011
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Renouard—gentile, former member of the French Resistance, and recipient of the Medal of Resistance—delivers an evocative first-person account of his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps, and as a survivor in the wake of WWII. With vivid prose and striking details, Renouard renders scenes like a master storyteller: Shell fragments hit tent cloth "with the sound of popping champagne corks," and an SS guard whistles one of the author's favorite Bach concertos, unaware of the common ground between them. These fragmented moments are alternately absurd, heartwarming, and horrible. But whether the author is recalling the sensation of drinking a cold beer in a burning house, or the moans of his friend dying from systematic starvation in Bergen-Belsen, Renouard's account strives for objectivity and retains an unsentimental tone, painting a picture of human nature that is capable of generosity and evil. Having survived a place where inmates are considered less than human and their corpses are piled in the lavatories, the author affords both the Germans and their prisoners a humanity that the Nazi camps did not. Renouard claims the book should be read simply as "an expression of myself, nothing more," yet by also sharing the stories of those who did not live to record their own histories, this powerful debut memoir becomes far more than just one individual's WWII narrative. (Mar.)
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