Beyond Survival: A Holocaust memoir – a book review by Elana Bowman

September 12, 2018 by Elana Bowman
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Before Kristallnacht, (ironically to any one reading this book), Germany followed the letter of the law. It was the law who started censoring and isolating the Jews. It was laws who prevented Jews from owning businesses, living in their houses, working in communities, attending schools.

Elana Bowman

After Kristallnacht everything changed.

Everything that happened from 1938 appeared insignificant when compared with what was to follow. Over 4 years most of the laws changed, houses were taken, memos and affidavits were passed. In 1940 the deportations commenced, rules were passed regarding Jews and non-Jews, Jews had to wear yellow stars. In just under 4 years Germany became a different Germany.

Kenneth Arkwright described 1942 as an annus horribilis. Deportations were increased, ghettos were being destroyed, rabbis of each community had to give a list of names to the SS. Jews had to hand over their possessions, clothes, jewellery, and any surplus items. Food on their ration cards was cancelled. In July 1942 all metals, all the precious religious artefacts had to be handed over, things disappeared.

By October Jews were no longer allowed to buy books, have their hair cut, go to school, and children were enlisted into forced labour. People began to disappear, Jews were forced to bury bodies, young pupils, and young scholars (and later older people in the community) began to take their lives.

By November and December of 1942 with promises of Germany’s allies planning counter offensives and revenge enabled German to plan and accelerate the Final Solution.

This does not feel like a history book, Kenneth’s memories are the kind of history we should be learning. Kenneth describes all of the details, his memories, his accounts of living in Germany and it is incredible to read about his family, and especially his community. It is Kenneth’s detail of family members boarding buses and trains, and his accounts of the largest concentration camp Theresienstadt which you have to read; you have to remember them.

Yet Kenneth Arkwright, his father, the rabbis, the entire Jewish community lived with something so vital and essential, something that became tangible and it is such a powerful, life-affirming humane and infinitely wonderful thing to hold onto. They had hope. His book is filled with hope, people held onto hope. It is his strength this utter firm belief and conviction have made the Jewish people, who they are today.

Kenneth Arkwright’s accounts of 1943, 1944, and 1945 are incredibly had to read. It is almost as if we are bearing witness to the lives who are lost to us.

I don’t want to tell you about the entire book. Kenneth survived, he endured. And he witnessed. He witnessed the deaths of people he loved. He witnessed hope. He witnessed hiding, fear, starvation, loss, and prejudice.

During this memoir; he met dozens of people who impacted his life and career path. And he was left with the question “What are we? Germans, Americans. Australians. Or Jews?  Think that we are all that and more? We are members of the family of humanity, regardless whether we are wanted or not by our fellow human beings. We all share in all the joys and suffering of the word.”

Kenneth eventually ended up teaching, returned to Germany, worked and studied, then eventually got on a passage to Australia where he has spent his life learning and debating what it means to survive, to be grateful and what he was meant to do with all his remaining strength for the future of this world.

Originally a German memoir and account of the Holocaust; Kenneth Arkwright’s book was published and updated into English. It is his book about a Jew living in Germany.

While initially Kenneth resisted writing a book about his story, and his experiences he realised that his own stories, his own accounts needed to be told and shared.

Read this book. Learn a detailed account of the history of Germany during the Holocaust. And pass this book on … it needs to be passed on.

Beyond Survival: Published by Hybrid Publishers  $27-50

Read an extract

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