A disappointment or an interesting experience?
As a history graduate with a self-constructed specialization in political violence and genocide I have a problem wit eyewitness reports of holocaust survivors: I have read too many. Looked at with the objective eye one needs to cope with the cruelties of genocide, many of these reports look strikingly similar. Dancing with the Enemy: My Family’s Holocaust Secret by Paul Glaser, however, had the potential to be different.
The true story of Rosie Glacér (the author’s aunt) stands out because this talented dance teacher decided to dance and even sleep with camp guards in exchange for protection and information. This given evoked my curiosity about how she legitimized what she had to do to survive to herself and others, at the time as well as in later life. Unfortunately Paul Glaser mostly limits himself to the sheer facts he found in her diaries and several other documents, and we hardly get a deeper insight in Rosie’s feelings and considerations.
This lack of depth probably results from Glaser being clearly new to the subject. He states never to have to have shown much interest in the holocaust until he discovered he is partially Jewish himself. Out of fear for future dangers, his father decided to keep this a secret and managed to keep it until Glaser was middle-aged. This book is a way for Glaser to deal with the questions that arose from his discovery. But he did not have the historical base needed to move past the first shock, leaving him unable to move to that potentially interesting deeper level. Aside from that, the text clearly shows Glaser is not a professional writer and the English translation is certainly not what it needs to be, all of which does the story short.
But here’s the good part: if you have never read a story like this before you’ll be shocked by the facts, just like the author was. This will make the book into a very interesting, disturbing and impressive experience, and the cruel facts will distract you from the literary shortcomings. For those that have done their reading on the subject the book adds little new, and disappoints because it doesn’t go where you wish it would.
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