cover image Born Jewish: A Childhood in Occupied Europe

Born Jewish: A Childhood in Occupied Europe

Marcel Liebman. Verso, $25 (181pp) ISBN 978-1-84467-039-0

The late Liebman (Leninism Under Lenin; The Russian Revolution) tells of his middle-class WWII-era Belgian upbringing, concentrating on the disparities among Belgian Jews, most notably how the wealthy treated those lower on the social ladder as sacrificial lambs. ""They made me suffer an injustice which, in the very midst of Jews as a persecuted group, made distinctions between the affluent and the poor (the latter handed over defenceless) and set its notables...against the immigrants, the undesirable plebs,"" writes Liebman, whose older brother, Henri, was killed at Auschwitz and whose family separated to escape the Nazis, landing Liebman and his surviving brothers in the care of Catholic nuns, among other hideouts. Heron's sometimes wooden translation does not diminish the poignancy of Liebman's stories of brotherly bonding in times marked by worry, grief and the boredom of lying low. Liebman directs his anger about the crimes against European Jews not toward the people who inflicted them but the racism that fueled their actions, and promises his murdered brother that although ""racism hacked out a void that will never be filled,"" he will ""fight against it mercilessly"" to ensure that such horrors are never visited upon anyone again. Though the stories of evasion are harrowing, what makes this book such an unusual and worthwhile read is Liebman's perspective, which lacerates ideas, not individuals.