By My Mother's Hand: As Told By Survivor Henry Melnick

Michael Melnick
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Holocaust survivor HENRY MELNICK was born in Lodz, Poland. Shortly after the Nazis occupied Poland in 1939, he was sent to do slave labour in the Nowy Sącz, Tarnów Ghettos and Szebnie camp. He was then transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buna, Dora-Mittelbau and Bergen-Belsen death camps. 

When his parents were murdered in the Belżec death camp, he became the sole survivor of his entire family. After liberation, Henry volunteered for the Israeli Army and fought for Israel’s independence. He came to Canada in 1965 with his wife Hela and their two children. 

His story is one of strength and courage. His survival is nothing short of a miracle. 

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About the author

Henry Melnick grew up in Lodz, Poland. After the Nazis occupied the majority of Europe during World War II, he was forced to endure slave labour and was transferred among nearly a dozen different concentration camps. He emerged from the war as the sole survivor of his entire family.

Henry moved to Israel with his new wife Hela and fought for the nation's independence. Several years after his two children were born he moved to Toronto, Canada.

Henry passed away on his 91st birthday on June 25, 2013. His legacy remains in the form of By My Mother's Hand.

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Michael Melnick
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Published on
Jun 30, 2011
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Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
History / Holocaust
History / Jewish
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I Choose Life is the true, first person account of two Jewish youths, Sol and Goldie, who survived Nazi concentration camps and transcended despair by choosing life. The book title derives from a harrowing encounter between Sol and the Commandant in Auschwitz. The Nazi cruelly forced Sol to choose between execution by hanging or firing squad. Sol, then 19-years-old, defied him, declaring, If I have a choice, I choose life!

Goldie Cukier, a 13-year-old girl, and her older sister were rounded up in a random raid in their neighborhood. An SS guard gave Goldies father the choice of freeing only one of his two daughters. Goldie volunteered to be taken so that her sister would be spared. It was the last she would ever see her family alive.

I Choose Life describes idyllic childhoods in Radom and Sosnowiec, Poland, in warm and loving families imbued with Jewish pride and values; years of darkness, suffering, separation, loss and death; raids, selections, forced labor camps, cattle cars, and death marches; and survival in Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Bergen-Belsen. Sol says, A sane person cannot imagine what it was like.

For years, Sol and Goldie never shared their stories, not even with each other. Now, they have decided to tell their stories, to leave a legacy to their grandchildren, and to help ensure the Holocaust is never repeated.

Sols story is full of adventure and suspense, while Goldies narrative draws the reader into the poignancy of a young girls inner world as she is torn from her family by the Nazis. I Choose Life is two complete and parallel memoirs of survival and rebirth. Together, the two memoirs of I Choose Life illuminate the Holocaust experience in a unique way, offering both male and female perspectives, one told by a person of action and one by a person of feeling, to yield insights into the most monumental tragedy in human history.

I Choose Life is distinguished as a Holocaust testament, not only because it is two complete memoirs of a boy and a girl, but ultimately, because the two stories entwine as Sol and Goldie meet in a Displaced Persons camp in post-war Germany. The book explores the challenges of restoration and rebirth, how two youths regained the ability to trust and love, to rebuild new lives after unimaginable losses, and to move to another continent to start a new family and live the American dream. In one of the most peculiar and fascinating chapters of modern Jewish history, Sol and Goldie tell the story of how hundreds of Jewish concentration camp survivors from Europe found an unexpected new Zion in rural Vineland, Jersey, as a community of chicken farmers.

I Choose Life is also distinguished by its reliance on historical documents. With the help of the research resources of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Sol and Goldies son Joseph was able to access original historical records which have become newly available to survivors in search of answers about themselves and family members lost in the Holocaust. These documents, some of which are reproduced in the book, enabled Joseph to verify and discover new facts and details, including the name and location of a secret V2 rocket factory, dates of prisoner transports, arrival dates at different camps, and lists of prisoners in which Sols and Goldies names appear.

Through an emotional journey, I Choose Life describes the moving discovery of the final events and fate of Sols father, Jacob Finkelstein, following his separation from Sol just a week before liberation in Mauthausen concentration camp. Through research by Joseph, Sol finally learned, while this book was being completed, of the existence of his fathers unmarked grave in Austria. This astounding discovery gave Sol and his family emotional closure, after from 60 years of uncertain guilt that Sol carried with him since the day he and
From the moment I got to Auschwitz I was completely detached. I disconnected my heart and intellect in an act of self-defense, despair, and hopelessness." With these words Sara Nomberg-Przytyk begins this painful and compelling account of her experiences while imprisoned for two years in the infamous death camp. Writing twenty years after her liberation, she recreates the events of a dark past which, in her own words, would have driven her mad had she tried to relive it sooner. But while she records unimaginable atrocities, she also richly describes the human compassion that stubbornly survived despite the backdrop of camp depersonalization and imminent extermination.

Commemorative in spirit and artistic in form, Auschwitz convincingly portrays the paradoxes of human nature in extreme circumstances. With consummate understatement Nomberg-Przytyk describes the behavior of concentration camp inmates as she relentlessly and pitilessly examines her own motives and feelings. In this world unmitigated cruelty coexisted with nobility, rapacity with self-sacrifice, indifference with selfless compassion. This book offers a chilling view of the human drama that existed in Auschwitz.

From her portraits of camp personalities, an extraordinary and horrifying profile emerges of Dr. Josef Mengele, whose medical experiments resulted in the slaughter of nearly half a million Jews. Nomberg-Przytyk's job as an attendant in Mengle's hospital allowed her to observe this Angel of Death firsthand and to provide us with the most complete description to date of his monstrous activities.

The original Polish manuscript was discovered by Eli Pfefferkorn in 1980 in the Yad Vashem Archive in Jerusalem. Not knowing the fate of the journal's author, Pfefferkorn spent two years searching and finally located Nomberg-Przytyk in Canada. Subsequent interviews revealed the history of the manuscript, the author's background, and brought the journal into perspective.

 A heart-wrenching true story of one young man's journey into, through, and out of the Holocaust.

Some people have a knack for survival, for getting out of jams. Twelve-year-old David Karmi found himself face to face with the ultimate test. With his homeland consumed by fear, David entered a world of human slaughter. Whole towns were vaporized. Cities obliterated in firestorms. More than fifty million people died—twelve million either gassed, shot, hanged, worked to death or subjected to biological experiments. David survived.

Separated from his parents and siblings, David Karmi was hurled into a nightmare of death camps, forced marches, sickness, violence and depravity. On his own, through the tortuous months that followed, he endured. He is a survivor of Auschwitz, Dachau, and the Warsaw Ghetto. He enured forced marches, starvation, and even persecution after the Allies freed him from the camps. This is a story of strength, courage, some luck - and an amazing man, told in his own words. It is the biography of a survivor.


“[Karmi’s debut forgoes] the despair employed by Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel, instead echoing the optimism of Anne Frank…Eminently readable and largely remarkable.”—Kirkus Reviews

"‘Some people have a knack for survival, for getting out of jams.’ Karmi is one of those, and he faces the ultimate test as a young teen in Nazi-occupied Europe as he and his family are deported to Auschwitz." —Publishers Weekly

"Survivor’s Game reads not so much like a memoir but a novel, replete with tension, drama, and twists and turns. Recommended." —Midwest Book Review

"This is a story we all need to know…the cost of forgetting is too high." —New York Times best-selling author Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

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