FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA: A MEMOIR OF AUSCHWITZ. (1978) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

isabella book

FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA: A MEMOIR OF AUSCHWITZ BY ISABELLA LEITNER. (1978) THIS NEW EDITION PUBLISHED BY OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.

BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a gorgeous little book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, if anyone can ever be said to have ‘enjoyed’ a book about the Holocaust and the tragic events contained therein. I read it in one sitting on the day I purchased it. The book itself had a lovely velvety feel to it, a texture I can never quite resist in a book. I buy some books just because I love the shape, the feel or the smell of them. I’m totally a book nut, lol.

It’s quite short, this FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA, just a manageable one-hundred-and-twenty-seven pages in total and, in fact, it was named on publication as an AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION BEST BOOK FOR YOUNG ADULTS.

I didn’t realise as I was reading it that it might be a book for Young Adults. I read it for what it is, a very moving, simply written but devastatingly telling account of Isabella Leitner’s- and her family’s- experience of the Holocaust.

Isabella (Leitner was her married name) was a beautiful young Jewish-Hungarian woman who was deported from the ghetto to Auschwitz on the morning of her twenty-third birthday. A cruelty indeed on the part of Fate- and the Nazis- but then, Isabella herself would probably say that every day is someone’s birthday and that all deportations were cruel. And of course she’d be right on both counts.

It’s so sad when she talks about how the non-Jewish population of Kisvarda, the small town in Hungary where she lived with her family, more or less stood by and let these deportations happen. They didn’t just let them happen, they actually stood there and watched them happen, some of them with smiles on their faces that seemed to a shell-shocked Isabella to mean:

‘Well, goodbye, dirty Jews, we’re glad to have our country back to ourselves again.’ In the end, Isabella said that she wanted to leave these small-minded, petty cowardly people behind her, whatever horrors the future held in store for her and her family.

This future was terrible indeed. Isabella and her mother, Teresa, and her four sisters Chicha, Cipi, Rachel and little Potyo, along with her brother Philip, were crammed together into one of the notorious cattle wagons for the journey to Auschwitz, the dead centre of the Nazis’ concentration camp killing machine.

Their father had gone abroad to seek safe passage and immigration papers for his family to come and join him in America or Israel, wherever he was, but I’m not sure if Isabella ever heard from him again after that. Their mother, Teresa, died in the jam-packed, almost airless cattle wagons, as did many others.

The old, the sick, babies, nursing mothers and the very young were, of course, particularly vulnerable to the appalling conditions. People were piled in on top of one another with nothing to eat or drink except what they’d managed to bring along themselves as per the Nazis’ instructions. There was only one bucket for sanitation purposes and the stench of urine and excrement would quickly become unbearable, as you can imagine.

The death of their cultured, kind-hearted book-loving mother was a terrible blow to Isabella and her sisters. Ditto, the death of their little sister Potyo not long after. Life was hard enough to bear without these two deaths to cope with as well.

Their arrival at the camp was the same nightmare experienced by all the others who passed through the dreaded gates of Auschwitz, over which were inscribed the words: ‘ARBEIT MACHT FREI,’ or WORK SETS YOU FREE. Not always the case at Auschwitz.

The sisters endured together the horrible shock of having their heads shaved immediately on arrival, as well as the shaving off of their pubic and armpit hair to prevent the spread of lice, a constant worry in the camp. Isabella describes herself and her sisters at this moment in time as ‘four naked-headed monsters,’ but they were not the monsters. They weren’t even close.

Isabella and her sisters made a pact to each stay alive. No matter what the awful camp threw at them, they would stick together and STAY ALIVE. Thus, whenever one of them felt like giving up and throwing in the towel, the sisters would all rally round and practically will that person to keep going, keep going, keep going, no matter what, to stay alive.

Isabella’s brother Philip, who would have been in the mens’ section of the camp, urged his sisters to stay alive also so that the Nazis could be ‘paid back’ for their crimes against humanity. Also, Philip said, it was so that they could tell the whole world what had happened there at Auschwitz, and that was obviously something that really resonated with Isabella.

And the awful camp had plenty in its horrible arsenal to throw at them. For example, the infamous ‘selections,’ at which Dr. Josef Mengele himself indicated with his right thumb or his left thumb who was to live and who was to die in the gas chambers.

Infectious diseases like typhus and TB. Irma Grese, the notorious SS woman, blonde and beautiful but with a heart of stone. Poor, rotten food. Limited washing and toileting facilities. The endless roll-call or ‘Appell’ at which you could be standing in line for four or more hours while the guards called out everyones’ names.

If there was a mistake or a miscount in the Appell, the guards would start again while the starving prisoners either froze in the snow or wilted under the sun. And always, always, always, the constant shouts of ‘Raus! Raus! Raus!’ meaning ‘Get out!’ or ‘Schnell! Schnell! Schnell!,’ meaning to hurry up. The Nazis always did everything on the run.

Isabella’s book was written in 1978, thirty-three years after Liberation. It’s a sad book, but it’s a book that ultimately contains a dazzling message of hope. PUBLISHERS’ WEEKLY says of it that: ‘Her (Isabella’s) slim volume is a celebration of the strength of the human spirit as it passes through fire.’

The things that Isabella and her sisters go through will strike a chord with any Holocaust survivors who read the book. She’s got her own way of putting things though, a unique voice that tells her dreadful story simply, in a way that’s easy to read and digest. It’s not like one of those massive Holocaust tomes that you could use as a door-stop if you needed to, but then it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes less really is more.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS. 

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL (2018) and WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH (2017): TWO NAZI HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL (2018) AND WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH (2017): A DOUBLE BILL OF TRULY WOEFUL NAZI HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I received both of these films as a birthday present recently and I had great craic watching them, despite the fact that they’re both awful, lol. THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL is apparently the third film in a trilogy, so somewhere out there, knocking around merrily as if they haven’t got a care in the world, are the two other films that spawned this unholy hell-child.

Based on a real doll, a doll that exists in real life and is said to be possessed of supernatural powers, it’s by far the worst film of my two birthday gifts. It’s a film of two halves. The first half actually promises to be good, believe it or not.

An obviously abused wife is fleeing from her sadistic husband in Nazi Germany. She’s bringing with her an old book said to possess the power to grant life to inanimate objects. Hitler has sent some of his most high-ranking Nazis to retrieve the book at all costs.

What does Hitler want it for anyway, the cheeky beggar? If he was hoping to use it to revive his floppy pecker, well, I don’t think the book performs actual freakin’ miracles, lol. From what I’ve read, he wasn’t exactly a sensation in the bedroom. Eva Braun must have died a very frustrated woman. Good job there were so many hot Nazis around…

Anyway, the abused wife, Eva von Hammersmark, is charming and feisty and the film might have been a bit better if it had concentrated more on Eva and her nasty hubby Joseph. However, we lose Eva at the end of the first half of the film when her car is hijacked by another nasty piece of work (she certainly seems to attract that type!) and she and her abductor end up at the isolated farmhouse of a very strange man indeed…

The second half of the film doesn’t seem to have anything at all to do with the first, and it’s virtually incomprehensible to boot. The ancient German toymaker responsible for creating Robert the Doll is aboard a train for some reason, fighting off Nazis with the help of his ventriloquist’s dummy, Robert. I think they’re all fighting for possession of the mystical book but don’t quote me on that. They could be doing anything at all, this bit’s such a mess.

WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH has garnered a number of truly stinking reviews, but I liked it much better than THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE STUPID WOODEN DOLL WHO LOOKS LIKE THE EVIL DUMMY FROM THE GOOSEBUMPS BOOKS.

 A group of four painfully American soldiers escape from the Nazis while they’re being carted off to military prison in Germany in World War Two. They wander deep into rural Germany, Hitler’s Third Reich, and end up stumbling upon something rather out of the ordinary.

It’s an SS medical experiment camp run by the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele and his, um, wife, Ilse Koch. She’s a big show-off cow who’s very anxious for the four (yes, four, maybe it was all they could afford, lol) prisoners at the camp to know her terrifying nickname, the Bitch of Buchenwald…

Here at the camp, Mengele, played by an actor who could easily double as Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s personal toady and Minister for Propaganda, is taking time out from experimenting on twins and making his infamous ‘selections’ on the arrivals ramp at Auschwitz.

He’s engaged on a top-secret mission for the Fuhrer, played by a man who looks like Scottish actor Robert Carlyle with ‘a perfectly square bit of black dirt’ painted onto him between his schnozz and his kisser. Mengele is perfecting a method that will turn regular Nazis into werewolf Nazis, so they’ll be just as vicious and bloodthirsty but just not quite as blonde, lol.

The Nazi chosen to go first in this terrifying experiment is the handsome young fella who’s been giving the horny, frustrated Ilse Koch the ride while Mengele’s been occupied trying to turn straw into gold, I mean Nazis into werewolves. Yes, Ilse is a passionate woman who needs to be loved and she’s been playing hide-the-salami with the film’s one good-looking Nazi, the clever girl.

Mengele has found out about his wife’s unwise infidelity and he’s deliberately chosen her lover for the furry face and scratchy fingernails out of spite and jealousy. And the lover can’t even refuse to do it because it’s for Hitler, haha, for Hitler and the Third Reich and you know how fanatical these guys were about doing stuff for Hitler and his precious Reich, lol.

Can Ilse save her sexy blonde lover from a fate pretty much worse than death? (Is being a werewolf worse than being a Nazi? I can’t even tell…!) Can ‘the Fabulous Four’ (those ‘Murican soldiers I mentioned earlier) manage to break into the camp and foil Mengele’s dastardly plan to win the war for Hitler with his unholy army of savage werewolf soldiers?

If you still actually care at this point, you might enjoy the fun ending and the promise of more films to come. Oh, and the end of the ROBERT THE DOLL movie promises, well, another ROBERT THE DOLL movie sometime in the future too, God help us all.

Maybe by then they’ll have a few more Nazi uniforms to go round and they might even have had time to iron out the plotholes in their concept. Who am I kidding? Even the mystical book couldn’t reanimate these turkeys, but I still enjoyed them- well, WEREWOLVES, anyway- and they’re only meant to be a bit of fun. Don’t y’all go taking ’em seriously now…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor