CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Brewster, Eva.

Edmonton, NeWest Press, c1984. 143pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-929316-57-3. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Allan S. Evans

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July

The continuing, and indeed increasing, publicity surrounding the Holocaust seems to be polarizing Canadian public opinion to a degree. There has been widespread media coverage of highly controversial trials of people accused of promoting Nazis or denigrating Jews, and speculation about the possible harbouring of German war criminals in Canada. Some people feel that forty years is long enough to remember or to bear grudges, however justifiable. Others are more convinced than ever that the re-emergence of racists and hate-mongers demands that each new generation be exposed to the grisly details of the organized Nazi effort to exterminate European Jewry.

The Holocaust has inspired more literature, both documentary and fictional, than almost any other issue in modem history. Therefore, the appearance of yet another book on the subject could, in spite of its sincertiy, be regarded as unremarkable or even redundant. Yet, such is the nature of this topic, that an eye-witness account, though largely repetitive in its depiction of Nazi atrocities against Jews, can still be a powerful and moving document

This is the case with Eva Brewster's work. Her testament is made all the more gripping by the author's matter-of-fact style and unadorned presentation. She simply, straightforwardly, recounts her experiences as a young, married Jewess in wartime Germany, principally during her internment in a series of infamous camps, including the dreaded Auschwitz. Her description of the differences between the people who gave up to their jailers and to death, and those who develeoped the skills and toughness to survive, is fascinating. Particularly chilling is her account of how the survivors developed their senses and intuition, such as about who would be dead by next day, or what unseen thing was happening or about to happen in the camp.

In addition to her own incredible sufferings, the author was assailed by the ironic circumstances of her husband's death, and the unspeakable agony of her young daughter's incineration in a camp crematorium. So often it was a case of her own good luck or someone else's equally inexplicable bad luck that meant the difference between life and death. Her success in keeping her own mother alive through the living hell of Auschwitz, and the timely assistance of fellow inmates, probably kept her from insanity or from joining the unlucky milions who, in camp vernacular, went "up the chimney."

Thus, while there essentially is nothing new in Eva Brewster's memoirs, the overwhelming horror of the Holocaust is once again impressed upon the reader by the sheer intimacy and simplicity of this brief book. It should appear on the shelves of school libraries across the country and be recommended to senior students as a potent primary source for their research.

Allan S. Evans. Emery C.I., North York. Ont.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works