cover image The Ghost Tattoo: Discovering the Hidden Truth of My Father’s Holocaust

The Ghost Tattoo: Discovering the Hidden Truth of My Father’s Holocaust

Tony Bernard. Citadel, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-806-54258-4

Australian ER doctor Bernard debuts with an evocative account of gradually learning what his father, Henry Bierzynski Bernard (1920–2016), went through during the Holocaust. Born in 1955, Bernard grew up unaware of his Jewish heritage. It was only in 1979 that his father began to share his experiences, revealing that he had been interned in Auschwitz. Still, it took more than 20 years for Henry to relate the full story. In the 1930s, the Nazis used local Jewish councils to control the Jewish populations in areas they occupied, including Henry’s hometown of Tomaszow, Poland. In 1939, Henry’s father, a council member, requested that Henry join the Jewish police force the Nazis had compelled the council to create, hoping to ensure that the force was composed of “honest” people. Henry continued in that role for years, acting as ethically as possible under the circumstances, but was later haunted by the idea that he’d “unknowingly assisted the Nazis in their murderous plans.” Bernard’s narrative combines recollections of a childhood spent adoring his father (even as his parents’ marriage couldn’t withstand Henry’s obsessive behavior and bouts of melancholy) and Henry’s harrowing story, which is full of crushing moments, including his futile attempt to save his mother from being transported to a death camp. The result is a standout new addition to the literature of the Holocaust. (Sept.)