Ronald R Seagrave <seagraver@...>
Sara's Children: The Destruction of Chmielnik
By Suzan Esther Hagstrom
Sergeant Kirkland's Press www.kirklands.org
6 by 9" Trade paper
Retail Price $29.95
Publication Date Jan. 15, 2001
Sara's Children is full of love, joy, and hope, Nathan Garfinkel's
wedding portrait on the back of this book cover captures one of life's
turning points. The occasion, however, was more momentous than any one
could ever imagine. Only six years earlier Nathan and his sisters, who
surround him in the photograph, were reduced to living skeletons, victims
of anti-Semitism that raged out of control during World War II. Nazi
Germany and its sympathizers brutally murdered more than 6 million Jews
across Europe, wiping out entire families and, in some cases, villages.
Through sheer luck and by helping each other, the Garfinkels overcame
seemingly insurmountable odds to evade death. Sara's Children records how
the five siblings survived slave labor, starvation, beatings, typhus,
exposure, and fatigue. The starkly written narrative relies heavily on the
Garfinkels' own words and interviews with other survivors >from their
hometown of Chmielnik, Poland. The nonfiction work begins with what they
lost: loving parents, an extended family, loyal friends, and a simple, but
vibrant, lifestyle. Nonetheless, disturbing signs of anti-Semitism mar
their happy childhood. Violence and hatred escalate as Germany razes Poland
and sweeps Europe. Each chapter explodes with details of the Garfinkels'
terrible ordeal. More than just an individual's memoir, Sara's Children
expresses a community's destruction via heartbreaking testimonials >from
numerous other Holocaust survivors.
Written documents >from Germany, photographs >from the late 1940s, and
maps reinforce and verify their account. Places like Czestochowa, Kielce,
and Skarzysko-Kamienna, where the Garfinkels were imprisoned and exploited,
may not be as familiar to readers as Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, but they
were just as deadly. With its vivid descriptions of lesser-known camps,
Sara's Children sheds more light on Nazi Germany's vast network of evil.
The Garfinkels provide a rare, uplifting footnote to an era of
incomprehensible cruelty and unprecedented genocide. While their experience
is rooted in the Holocaust, their story of rising above degradation and
despair has universal appeal.
What People are Saying About Sara's Children:
"...portrays the best in Jewish and other people, faith in God, close
sibling love, sacrifice in the worst of times and under the most difficult
of conditions. This classic restores trust and understanding of other human
beings." Dr. Felicja Karay, author of Death Comes in Yellow
"...a compelling and absorbing report >from hell. It is skillfully built
around the words of the Garfinkels, Polish Jews, four sisters and a
brother, all of whom survived nearly three years of Hitler's slave labor
camps. The narrative is enhanced and confirmed by the recollections of
other Holocaust survivors whose paths crossed those of the Garfinkels in
those terrible years. ...a unique and valuable contribution." David S.
Wyman, Professor of History, Emeritus University of Massachusetts, Amherst;
PBS's The Abandonment of the Jews
About the Author:
Suzan Esther Hagstorm is a freelance journalist in San Diego and a Phi Beta
Kappa graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. She researched
and wrote Sara's Children in her spare time while working as a financial
news reporter for the Orlando Sentinel in Florida.