by Serge Klarsfeld
This book by Paul Schaffer will have a large readership, and preferably, a young readership. Despite the passage of decades, Paul Schaffer has written a book for young readers in retracing this extraordinary 20th century journey by a boy who was born and raised in Vienna according to the high standards typical of an Austrian Jewish upbringing, and then as an adolescent sent directly from rural South-West France to the hell of the Birkenau concentration camp, deprived forever of his father, his mother, and his sister.
The miracle of this account is Paul’s sincerity which captures our attention from the first page, sustains our interest as we repeat his entire journey, and enables us to see what he saw firsthand. Sincerity, intensity, modesty, and sensitivity characterize Paul who endured so many trials and tribulations yet was able to preserve the innate dignity that was nurtured from early childhood by a warm and loving family.
Paul experienced abusive treatment at the hands of the Austrian police, the Germans, the French police, the SS, and the kapos, but he never lowered himself to the level of an animal that the Nazis wished him to attain. Unconsumed by hatred, Paul was able to build a happy family life and enjoy a creative professional career, while willingly assuming his obligations as a former deportee through teaching.
Accounts by survivors of Auschwitz belong to a category that does not yet exist, that of stories written by intergalactic travelers who will one day describe beings and worlds as yet unexplored. Survivors of Auschwitz are the only ones to have returned from another planet, a terrifying planet – the planet Auschwitz.
Those survivors who have the courage to provide their testimony give us a glimpse of that planet, a planet that will take a long time to explore.
Thank you Paul Schaffer.