Last November, I received an email inviting me to meet a Holocaust survivor, Judith H. Sherman, read her book, and hear her story on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I was excited and interested to listen to her story, gain insight into her experience, and just take the opportunity to learn.
Say the Name is a vividly written book about the experience of a teenage girl who was imprisoned by the Nazis during the terrors of the Holocaust, a story of courage and determination for survival. Written in poetry and prose Say the Name is a moving account of both mental and physical suffering and moral wickedness. The story is anchored to memoirs and retellings of when Sherman was a young girl, before the brutal events of the Holocaust, giving the reader background and context. She lived in Kurima Czechoslovakia, a small town in Germany with her family and extended family, in relative comfort and happiness until that comfort slipped away. She hid from the Nazis during a separation from her parents, which ended with a gut-wrenching train ride to Auschwitz. Luckily, she was averted to Ravensbruck due to the “overpopulation” of Jews in Auschwitz.
Struggling against the Nazi’s attempts to blot out her identity and dehumanize her using imprisonment, terror, and other inhumane acts, she resists hanging on to the memory of her identity and maintained her faith despite the many wrongs that took place there.
She discusses being liberated from the camp and marching to freedom, all the while speculative of the word’s “safety” and “resettlement.” Towards the end of the book, she also writes about her life after the war, including how she started a family and lived with the emotional effects of being a survivor. Sherman shared how she was always on two tracks of her life, living in the present but also in the events of the past.
While most people are broken in the face of adversity, Judith Sherman found strength from her experience at Ravensbruck concentration camp and kept her faith. I think this is powerful in the sense of mental strength especially regarding her experience with suffering and loss of friends and family. While written from a personal experience, it is also a story of community, telling the stories of those she knew.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the lives and experiences of those affected, both psychologically and physically, by the horrors of the holocaust. This experience underlined how important it was for young people to hear, remember and reshare survivor stories’ to keep their memories alive. Her memoir is informative and full of prose that weaves stark poetry into her story and displays resilience in the face of loss and terror. She explores identity, loss, and the importance of a name. She depicts her experience and emotions during the time of fear and survival during the Holocaust and her life after including the start of her family. It is a beautifully written thought-provoking book, and an insight into personal courage, and overall, a great read.