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Still Alive
Cover of Still Alive
Still Alive
A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered
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A controversial bestseller likened to Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel, Still Alive is a harrowing and fiercely bittersweet Holocaust memoir of survival: "a book of breathtaking honesty and extraordinary insight" (Los Angeles Times).

Swept up as a child in the events of Nazi-era Europe, Ruth Kluger saw her family's comfortable Vienna existence systematically undermined and destroyed. By age eleven, she had been deported, along with her mother, to Theresienstadt, the first in a series of concentration camps which would become the setting for her precarious childhood.

Interwoven with blunt, unsparing observations of childhood and nuanced reflections of an adult who has spent a lifetime thinking about the Holocaust, Still Alive rejects all easy assumptions about history, both political and personal. Whether describing the abuse she met at her own mother's hand, the life-saving generosity of a woman SS aide in Auschwitz, the foibles and prejudices of Allied liberators, or the cold shoulder offered by her relatives when she and her mother arrived as refugees in New York, Kluger sees and names an unexpected reality which has little to do with conventional wisdom or morality tales.

"Among the reasons that Still Alive is such an important book is its insistence that the full texture of women's existence in the Holocaust be acknowledged, not merely as victims. . . . [Kluger] insists that we look at the Holocaust as honestly as we can, which to her means being unsentimental about the oppressed as well as about their oppressors." —Washington Post Book World

A controversial bestseller likened to Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel, Still Alive is a harrowing and fiercely bittersweet Holocaust memoir of survival: "a book of breathtaking honesty and extraordinary insight" (Los Angeles Times).

Swept up as a child in the events of Nazi-era Europe, Ruth Kluger saw her family's comfortable Vienna existence systematically undermined and destroyed. By age eleven, she had been deported, along with her mother, to Theresienstadt, the first in a series of concentration camps which would become the setting for her precarious childhood.

Interwoven with blunt, unsparing observations of childhood and nuanced reflections of an adult who has spent a lifetime thinking about the Holocaust, Still Alive rejects all easy assumptions about history, both political and personal. Whether describing the abuse she met at her own mother's hand, the life-saving generosity of a woman SS aide in Auschwitz, the foibles and prejudices of Allied liberators, or the cold shoulder offered by her relatives when she and her mother arrived as refugees in New York, Kluger sees and names an unexpected reality which has little to do with conventional wisdom or morality tales.

"Among the reasons that Still Alive is such an important book is its insistence that the full texture of women's existence in the Holocaust be acknowledged, not merely as victims. . . . [Kluger] insists that we look at the Holocaust as honestly as we can, which to her means being unsentimental about the oppressed as well as about their oppressors." —Washington Post Book World

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 17, 2001
    In the 1950s, when Kluger's children were small and growing up in the U.S., she caught German measles from them. Her family doctor said, "You must have led a sheltered childhood." In reality, she spent her early years in Theresienstadt and Birkenau-Auschwitz. Kluger's memoir—which has already become a bestseller in Germany—is a startling, clear-eyed and unflinching examination of growing up as a Jewish girl during the Holocaust. Calmly, and chillingly, relating the everyday events of her youth—Aryan students making colored paper swastikas and then asking Jewish students to judge them, breaking the law to go to an Aryan movie house to see Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
    and being challenged by a neighbor—Kluger charts how she and her family moved from a middle-class Viennese life to dealing with the constant threat of death in the camps. Kluger's style is wry ("the muse of history has a way of cracking bad jokes at the expense of the Jews"), and she can shock readers with simple, honest admissions, such as her embarrassment, in the 1970s, when her mother asks unanswerable questions of a speaker about the death camps. Kluger, who is now professor emerita at UC-Irvine and has won awards for this memoir as well as her literary criticism, has written a deeply moving and significant work that raises vital questions about cultural representations of the Holocaust (why did the highly praised, socially conscious 1947 film Gentleman's Agreement
    never mention "the Jewish catastrophe"?) and searches for what it means to be a survivor. Already compared by European critics to the work of Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel, this is an important addition to Jewish, Holocaust and women's studies. (Nov.)Forecast:This is a standout in the crowded field of Holocaust memoirs and should have strong sales.

  • Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    "A startling, clear-eyed, and unflinching examination of growing up as a Jewish girl during the Holocaust. . . . A deeply moving and significant work that raises vital questions about cultural representations of the Holocaust and searches for what it means to be a survivor."

  • Kirkus (starred review) "Stunning contemplation of human relationships, power, and the creation of history through the prism of one woman's Holocaust survival. . . . Kluger dives in and out of her narrative to consider such topics as her imperfect relationship with her family, her creation of herself as a social being, and the encounters and relationships she's had with Germans since the war. . . . A work of such nuance, intelligence, and force that it leaps the bounds of genre."
  • Booklist "A stunning autobiography, charting the blurred borders of a child, a daughter, a woman . . . a scholar, and a Jew."
  • Le Monde "An unforgettable example of humanity."
  • Library Journal "Deftly combining her own compelling narrative with a rigorous commentary . . . adds a spirited and original voice to . . . Holocaust literature."
  • Los Angeles Times Book Review "A book of breathtaking honesty and extraordinary insight."
  • Washington Post Book World "One of the ten best books of 2001. . . . Extraordinary. . . . Amazing. . . . Among the reasons that Still Alive is such an important book is its insistence that the full texture of women's existence in the Holocaust be acknowledged, not merely as victims. . . . [Kluger] insists that we look at the Holocaust as honestly as we can, which to her means being unsentimental about the oppressed as well as about their oppressors."
  • Kirkus (starred review) "A literary autobiography as extraordinary as it is refined, [Still Alive] rightfully belongs . . . side by side with the works of Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and Imre Kertesz."
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    The Feminist Press at CUNY
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Still Alive
Still Alive
A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered
Ruth Kluger
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