Thursday, November 25, 2021

Review: The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz by Thomas Geve

by Thomas Geve, Charlie Inglefield
Release Date: July 27, 2021
2021 Harper
Kindle Edition (& Hardcover Edition); 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0063061996
Audiobook: B08TPB88VM
Genre: Non-Fiction / WWII / Holocaust
Source: Review copies from publisher
5 / 5 Stars
In June 1943, after long years of hardship and persecution, thirteen-year-old Thomas Geve and his mother were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Separated upon arrival, he was left to fend for himself in the men’s camp of Auschwitz I.

During 22 harsh months in three camps, Thomas experienced and witnessed the cruel and inhumane world of Nazi concentration and death camps. Nonetheless, he never gave up the will to live. Miraculously, he survived and was liberated from Buchenwald at the age of fifteen.

While still in the camp and too weak to leave, Thomas felt a compelling need to document it all, and drew over eighty drawings, all portrayed in simple yet poignant detail with extraordinary accuracy. He not only shared the infamous scenes, but also the day-to-day events of life in the camps, alongside inmates' manifestations of humanity, support and friendship.

My Thoughts
The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz is the story of a young Jewish lad in Germany who was deported to Auschwitz at the tender age of thirteen-years-old.  While it may not have gone as in-depth as some other books I have read, it had a poignancy and rawness to it that touched me very deeply.  And because this was written from the point of view of a young teenager, the perspective was somewhat different, moving from naivety to maturity as Thomas learned to adapt and survive in the midst of horrors that were inexplicable.  The author provided insights into many different aspects of camp life and explained quite a bit about the children's labour force which is not usually told from this perspective.  

One of the highlights of this book is definitely the drawings.  Childlike and colourful, they are deceptive in nature as they show the stark nature and the harsh reality of what life was like in the camps.  The pictures of people being hurt, tortured, hung, shot, and so on, was utterly heartbreaking.  There is something incredibly sad in these pictures: the lives of so many innocent people lost to a war machine that didn't care about what they destroyed, the lives and families they tore apart, and the innocence of childhood that was lost.  

The writing style seems simplistic at first, but when you really examine the words and think about them, you realize how profound a lot of the statements really are.  Sometimes its the simplicity of things that make the most impact and there were so many times I just had to stop and dwell on what Thomas revealed, in this sort of childish manner, but was in fact quite full of horror.  Just the way he wrote about even the roll calls and how those people were never seen from again, all the while looking at the smoking chimneys of Birkenau.makes me shiver.  Thomas was very observant and the amount of detail in this book is quite astounding.  

The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz has become one of my favourite books about the Holocaust, and I teach History and WWII so I am widely read in this subject having read some amazing non-fiction books.  Thomas manages to show the hardship and brutality of the camps, but he also shows the humane side through his friendships; there is also this feeling of hope that flows through his words.  So many people suffered horribly during this time period, and Thomas has dedicated his life into ensuring that his words, and his experience, as well as others, would never be forgotten.