Author: Heather Dune Macadam
Publisher: Beacon Press; Kindle Edition (January 30, 2011)
Goodreads Synopsis: Rena's Promise is the extraordinary memoir of a young woman from Poland who survived the Nazi death camps for more than three years. Sent on the first Jewish transport to Auschwitz, Rena Kornreich is soon reunited with her sister Danka in the camp. Each day becomes a struggle to fulfill the promise Rena made to her mother when the family was forced to split apart - a promise to take care of her sister. Rena tells her story of life in the camps with relentless sobriety. But it is not without hope, for what emerges through the horror is a humanity stripped to its essential connections - the bonds between mothers, daughters, and sisters, men and women prisoners, even prisoners and guards. Through these connections, Rena survives each day with the deep conviction that she and her sister must see the next.
I picked this book up for my Kindle when it was free several a couple of months ago, and as I look back through some of my recent reads, I realize I've been been on a Holocaust/WW II themed binge - three books in less than two months. I can't seem to devour enough. I've read true accounts, translations, and even a fictional story have graced my hands, heart, and mind recently.
Rena's Promise is a book that I want need must go back and read again, but I am afraid that I still won't be able to grasp the full impact of the message and story. But then again, can anyone?
While dark, terrifying, chilling and disturbing in more ways than one is supposed to understand, Rena's Promise is a beautiful story - one that must be told. It is the story of Rena and her sister Danka and it centers on their time spent as prisoners in Auschwitz. Wait, wait, wait! Did I just write beautiful and then follow that up in the very next sentence with the word Auschwitz? I know, I know, there is no way that anything associated with Auschwitz could be considered beautiful.
Rena was a child full of life and happiness. She loved her family more than anything, and during World War II when the Jews were being sent away and punished, she thought that giving herself up to the Nazi's and spending time in a work camp would be enough to save her parents and family from horrible fates. Rena was willing to sacrifice her freedom so that her family would not suffer a similar destiny. What Rena did not know was that she was walking into a seemingly never-ending nightmare of epic proportions, and that she would need to be her sister's guiding light, strength, and protector, and even then getting out alive was a distant hope that faded faster than a bomb falling from the Polish sky.
Rena's Promise takes the reader through Rena and Danka's time leading up to, during and after Auschwitz. The descriptions and accounts of what took place in Auschwitz were difficult to comprehend at times, but the one feeling that I felt while reading her story was the feeling of cold. I could not seem to get warm enough while reading Rena's Promise. I put on socks and piled under blankets, but the cold crept through my body and stayed there until the one night that Rena and her friends made homemade soup. The author helped me feel warmth in a story that was always cold through the most evocative descriptions of things that so many of us take for granted. I am so aware that the cold I was feeling was nowhere near the frigidness that Rena and Danka felt every every day or that the warmth I felt from that little sliver of happiness could never equal a tiny fraction the powerful happiness and warmth they felt that day.
While to some readers the descriptions may seem redundant, but the way in which they are represented can only give us as readers the tiniest kernel of understanding and comprehension as to the gruesome tragedy that so many had to suffer at the hand of Nazi Germany.
Rena's Promise is a memoir of survival. It tells of hope and never giving up, no matter the magnitude of the conditions in which one is faced with. It gave me, as a reader, joy knowing that Rena survived to tell this horrific account, and that she was able to live a fulfilling and beautiful life. Rena's Promise gave me hope that there can be even the smallest amount of happiness and the echo of laughter can be felt and remembered in the darkest of days.
Rena was a beautiful woman.
|Heather Dune Macadam|