ôPlease, Mama, I donÆt want to live like this,ö pleaded twelve-year-old Estelle GlaserÆs older sister as they watched the bodies of friends dangle from the gibbet in the center of the appelplatz of the Madjanek concentration camp. ôI cannot take the indignities and brutalities. LetÆs step forward and make them kill us now.ö
But EstelleÆs mother fiercely responded to her two daughters: No! Life is sacred. It is noble to fight to stay alive.
Their motherÆs indomitable will was a major factor in the trioÆs survival in the face of brutal odds. But Estelle recognized other heroes in the ghetto and camps as well, righteous individuals who stood out like beacons and kept their spirits alive. Their father was one, as were hungry teachers in dim, cold rooms who risked their lives to secretly teach imprisoned children. Estelle herself learned to draw on a joyful past, and to bring her own light into the void.
EstelleÆs memoir, published sixty-four years after her liberation from the Nazis, is a narrative of fear and hope and resiliency. While it is a harrowing tale of destruction and loss, it is also a story of the goodness that still exists in a dark world, of survival and renewal.
The best written Holocaust memoir I came across in twenty-five years. ùAlan Adelson, executive director, Jewish Heritage
Reading Estelle LaughlinÆs memoir made me feel the relevance of this history more keenly than any other experience; the power of her writing is to conjure the living reality of a beautiful mind, whose brilliance is to see all, and yet see more. Her recollections shrink at nothing and leave the reader marveling at the indomitable spirit who lived to help us think about how to live. ùEsther Schwartz-McKinzie, director, Paul Peck Humanities Institute, and dean of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Montgomery College