Leap to Life: Triumph Over Nazi Evil

Joseph Rebhun, Author Ardor Scribendi $25 (226p) ISBN 978-1-893357-05-1
Rebhun's story of survival in Russian- and Nazi-occupied Poland succeeds on several levels. First, it's a sharply focused, clearly written account of survival against impossible odds that manages to be uplifting despite repeated and vivid descriptions of unspeakable horror. Second, Rebhun brings a fresh voice to a topic that has generated enough books to fill several libraries. Rebhun, a retired California doctor, was born and raised in Przemysl, a Polish city of 70,000 that was captured by the Nazis in 1941. What follows is familiar--the establishment of a Jewish ghetto whose occupants are subjected to ongoing terrors, then the ghetto's evacuation after two years, its occupants sent to Auschwitz. Rebhun, 22, and his 68-year-old mother (his father had died) board the train, having made prior plans to jump while in transit. Both do jump, but they are separated. Before he finds his mother, Rebhun is forced to flee an approaching guard: ""I make a decision that tears my heart--to run far away from the tracks, a decision that still haunts me."" Eventually Rebhun obtains an identity card labeling him a Polish Catholic, though this doesn't ensure his safety. Rebhun describes through many graphic vignettes the depth and strength of Eastern European anti-Semitism and the depth and strength of the vigilance and subterfuge necessary to survive. In addition to his war years, Rebhun recalls his experiences testifying against some of the Nazis responsible for atrocities in the Przemysl ghetto, and he explains why he never lost his faith in God. Rebhun's account provides a searingly genuine window into a world that, a mere 50 years later, can seem as remote and impossible as the most imaginative fiction. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 07/01/2000
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