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On September 1, 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. Three years later, in the small town of Żółkiew, life for Jewish 15-year-old Clara Kramer was never to be the same again. While those around her were either slaughtered or transported, Clara and her family hid perilously in a hand-dug cellar. Living above and protecting them were the Becks. Mr. Beck was a womaniser, a drunkard On September 1, 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. Three years later, in the small town of Żółkiew, life for Jewish 15-year-old Clara Kramer was never to be the same again. While those around her were either slaughtered or transported, Clara and her family hid perilously in a hand-dug cellar. Living above and protecting them were the Becks. Mr. Beck was a womaniser, a drunkard and a self-professed anti-Semite, yet he risked his life throughout the war to keep his charges safe. Nevertheless, life with Mr. Beck was far from predictable. From the house catching fire, to Beck's affair with Clara's cousin, to the nightly SS drinking sessions in the room just above, Clara's War transports you into the dark, cramped bunker, and sits you next to the families as they hold their breath time and again. Sixty years later, Clara Kramer has created a memoir that is lyrical, dramatic and heartbreakingly compelling. Despite the worst of circumstances, this is a story full of hope and survival, courage and love.


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On September 1, 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. Three years later, in the small town of Żółkiew, life for Jewish 15-year-old Clara Kramer was never to be the same again. While those around her were either slaughtered or transported, Clara and her family hid perilously in a hand-dug cellar. Living above and protecting them were the Becks. Mr. Beck was a womaniser, a drunkard On September 1, 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. Three years later, in the small town of Żółkiew, life for Jewish 15-year-old Clara Kramer was never to be the same again. While those around her were either slaughtered or transported, Clara and her family hid perilously in a hand-dug cellar. Living above and protecting them were the Becks. Mr. Beck was a womaniser, a drunkard and a self-professed anti-Semite, yet he risked his life throughout the war to keep his charges safe. Nevertheless, life with Mr. Beck was far from predictable. From the house catching fire, to Beck's affair with Clara's cousin, to the nightly SS drinking sessions in the room just above, Clara's War transports you into the dark, cramped bunker, and sits you next to the families as they hold their breath time and again. Sixty years later, Clara Kramer has created a memoir that is lyrical, dramatic and heartbreakingly compelling. Despite the worst of circumstances, this is a story full of hope and survival, courage and love.

30 review for Clara's War

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I am listening to the audiobook narrated by Rula Lenska and her tone is perfect for the author who is 81 when she writes the book. It is based on a diary that the author wrote when she was in her teens,living hidden in a bunker, dug out underneath a house in Galicia, Poland, which is of course now in the Ukraine. Whose house was it, and who was hiding them? A German, and not any old German. He is in fact anti-semitic, a drunk and a womanizer. Rula Lenska's voice wonderfully fits the words and I am listening to the audiobook narrated by Rula Lenska and her tone is perfect for the author who is 81 when she writes the book. It is based on a diary that the author wrote when she was in her teens,living hidden in a bunker, dug out underneath a house in Galicia, Poland, which is of course now in the Ukraine. Whose house was it, and who was hiding them? A German, and not any old German. He is in fact anti-semitic, a drunk and a womanizer. Rula Lenska's voice wonderfully fits the words and the age of the elderly author recounting her experiences. I definitely like the way it is written - I mean the choice of words. It is written with the help of a ghostwriter, Stephen Glantz. I am wondering who is the creator of the words used, of how things are expressed. I am drawn in immediately. I quite simply enjoy the lines and how the details are expressed. Together they have created a wonderful book. On completion: This is a very, very good book/audiobook. When you encounter a book that has beautiful lines, lines that express so wisely philosophical insights and the truths of life you want to read those lines slowly. It is in these cases that an audiobook enhances one's experience. A good narrator reads the words slowly so you can suck on them; if you read the book your eyes may too quickly skim the text. If you can, I recommend that you listen to this book. You feel that the woman is telling of her personal experiences. More than 18 months hidden in a bunker! In a short epilogue Clara’s life after the war is also related. So why read another holocaust book? That is what I was thinking! This story is so personal. You feel that you are in that bunker hiding with Clara, starving with Clara, trembling with Clara and suffering with her too. Clara's story is exceptional and it is well told with the help of Stephen Glantz. Read it because although most holocaust memoirs have an important story to convey, few are told so well! This is a horror story, but there is love and compassion and kindness and bravery too. Yes, in the middle of such horror there are wonderful deeds of love. AND the bad guys, the Germans, the Nazis, the Ukrainians, will surprise you. They are not all bad. Conversely, some of the Jews, they are the ones that will make you cringe when their behavior is related. These are real people and they cannot be classified in groups or labeled as good or bad. Maybe I would have liked a teeny bit of humor, and don't tell me that humor doesn't belong in a holocaust tale. There may not be much humor but there is profound kindness and goodness from those who one would generally not expect it from. This is a very, very good book. What can I say? This is one of the best holocaust memoirs you will come across even if you have read a huge number. Don't miss this one just because you think you have read enough of the genre.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    I loved this book. It was an amazing account of this woman, her family, her community, and what happened during the Holocaust in her area. At the beginning of the book is a family free and a floor plan of the hiding place. Both were very helpful and I frequently referred to both of them. There were a few pages in a bunch more toward the back of the book than the front of black and white photos of Clara, and some of the people important in her life. I wish there had been more but appreciated the I loved this book. It was an amazing account of this woman, her family, her community, and what happened during the Holocaust in her area. At the beginning of the book is a family free and a floor plan of the hiding place. Both were very helpful and I frequently referred to both of them. There were a few pages in a bunch more toward the back of the book than the front of black and white photos of Clara, and some of the people important in her life. I wish there had been more but appreciated the ones included. This story worked so well. It was the best kind of collaboration, written by a man, but using a girl’s diary and the story that grown woman relates to him. He used her input and often her words, and it works beautifully. The immediacy of the story makes things feel so clear and so incredibly suspenseful. It might be the best non-fiction account I’ve read about Jews hiding from the Nazis. While the family tree informs the reader of who lives and who dies during the Nazi occupation, I felt great tension not knowing details of what would happen and how re the lives/deaths of non-family members too. Every single one of the people in this book is fascinating and it made reading Clara’s story completely riveting. Even without the Holocaust or other extreme times, this would have been an interesting looks into this family and their community. It was such a grueling read that I was very glad there was some humor at times. I did envy the extremely close extended families and the close neighbors/community, while it lasted. I love how much Clara loved books and reading so much. I was impressed that even the youngest children knew what was going on and what grave danger they were in. I thought it was amazing that these people had such a strong will to survive. I guess I can understand it because of some of them having children to try to protect, but honestly the conditions and uncertainty were so terrible, I don’t think it would have been worth it to me sans children, and the strong family ties and community ties and their faith did help. I had to read yet another moldy musty library copy but it was worth it. Highly recommended to any reader interested in reading this type of book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    ...It would never even have occurred to me to wonder about what war felt like. War was something in Tolstoy, not in my life. It wasn't just the heartrending drama that moved me. Or the horrific ordeal called the Holocaust. Not even the fact that this is a true story, told from the point of view of a Polish-Jewish teenager. No. What really moved me was the idea that an "avowed anti-Semite, misanthorpe, and despiser of all authority" was the man who saved Clara and her family. The man whom she ...It would never even have occurred to me to wonder about what war felt like. War was something in Tolstoy, not in my life. It wasn't just the heartrending drama that moved me. Or the horrific ordeal called the Holocaust. Not even the fact that this is a true story, told from the point of view of a Polish-Jewish teenager. No. What really moved me was the idea that an "avowed anti-Semite, misanthorpe, and despiser of all authority" was the man who saved Clara and her family. The man whom she says, "was the most naturally generous human being [she] had yet come to meet." Beck was his name. This guy whom Clara tried to read like she would read a book, "looking for any indication...of what he was thinking." The man who told his brother, loud enough for the Jewish family hiding in his bunker to hear: "I hated Jews my whole life. I still do. Why? How the hell should I know?" Beck was considered a Volksdeutsche: a member of the ethnic German group that had been sent to colonize Poland in the 17th and 18th centuries; Nazi sympathizers and helpers. Yet this man would end up risking his family's life in order to hide almost 20 Jews. Oh the befuddlement that is human nature. Born and raised in the small Polish town of Zolkiew, in a corner of Galicia in south-eastern Poland, Clara was from a privileged family of entrepreneurs who owned an oil press. Despite the "mounting anti-Semitism all across Europe" her parents did not believe it would reach them. Surely, the German people would rise up and overthrow Hitler, they thought. When an amendment was made to the original Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (the original terms were Nazi Germany could invade Poland and the Russians would have nothing to do with it), giving Hitler control of West Poland and Stalin control of the east, her family rejoiced. Everyone except for Clara's grandfather, Dzadzio who had been captured while he was a soldier in the Polish army. He spent six years in a Russian concentration camp. Dzadzio warned them of the danger to come. And it came. This was a tough part to read. But it was only the beginning. The Russians came. The Russians left. People were tortured and killed. And in came the Nazis. Jews hid in bunkers and tunnels. More people were tortured and killed. (Warning: Do not read this book if you're not willing to be emotionally gutted for history's sake). The book follows the couple of years that Clara's family and their friends paid Beck and his family to live in one of their homes, while they hid in the bunker. The arrangement would include trusting Beck to never reveal their hiding place, to feed them daily, to cover for them while they emptied their daily buckets filled with excrements. A horrid ordeal indeed. Turns out, the angel was really Julia Beck, Clara's family housekeeper. It was she who convinced her husband, Beck, to go along with the setup. Like they say, be careful of how you treat people on your way up... As if the family wasn't terrorized enough, the Nazis then moved into Beck's house. This will have you on the edge of your seat. Tension moves the scenes forward. And drama--well there's lots. Historical information is weaved throughout the plot so as to not overwhelm. And the voice is that of an introverted and bookish narrator whose diary snippets appear at the beginning of chapters. Two things I hadn't really thought about (or knew) before reading this: 1. The infamous Ukrainian Police. Sure, I knew about the NKVD and SS troops. But that Jews-in-hiding were even more afraid of the Ukrainian Police? Whoa. 2. The aftermath of the war (though she does not go into details, Clara mentions this in the epilogue). When the war ended, Jews were smuggled across countries. Their possessions had been stolen, their businesses closed, and many were jobless. Stored away in concentration camps, they lingered there for years, awaiting the chance to immigrate to Palestine which was supposed to be the Jewish state until Israel was declared a state. Hence the thought-provoking statement from Clara: "If there had been a Jewish state in 1939, the international community couldn't have turned its back on the extermination of six million Jews."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    Clara's War is the most unbelievably astonishing and remarkably heart wrenching book I have ever read in my life. Is there is one book everybody in the world should read, it is this one. Told with the grace and emotions of Clara's life during the Holocaust, this is a story that you will never forget. It stays with you long after you read it. As a teenage girl, I cannot even begin to imagine going through what Clara and her family and friends did. I find it hard to believe that these horrible Clara's War is the most unbelievably astonishing and remarkably heart wrenching book I have ever read in my life. Is there is one book everybody in the world should read, it is this one. Told with the grace and emotions of Clara's life during the Holocaust, this is a story that you will never forget. It stays with you long after you read it. As a teenage girl, I cannot even begin to imagine going through what Clara and her family and friends did. I find it hard to believe that these horrible things happened to millions of people and this book was the first one that helped me understand WWII and the treatment that the Jews faced. I now carry the knowledge of a young girl's terrifying life and know that Clara speaks for millions of others around the world who have faced and currently are facing genocide. I feel so emotionally connected to Clara and her family. Just reading her book over the last few days, I look up to her and all the survivors as heroes for their endless abounds of love, hope and faith they carried in their darkest days that helped them push through and unthinkable war. Whilst other teenage girls dream of meeting celebrities, singers and movie stars, I want to meet Clara Kramer and hug her. I am so appreciative of Ms. Kramer writing such a deep and personal recount of her life. I cried and cried and couldn't stop crying as I finished it despite the positive things that happened to her and her family after the war. I grieve for Mania, Uchka and the millions of people lost in WWII. I could not imagine life without my sister and find Clara's story full of despair but a brightness in the dark. After everything they went through in their bunker, Clara and her family were still capable of loving and bravely continuing on with their lives in honour of their lost loved ones and their community. The horrifying actions of the Nazis during the war are laid bare in straightforward lines that reveal the cruelty people are capable of committing. I was shocked and speechless in many parts. Clara spares no details and in that way, cuts straight to the heart of the reader. Clara witnessed the mass murder of most of the people she knew and loved. Through violence, oppression, sickening stories, extreme terror, countless close calls and lost hope, they survived against all odds. This book is so full of compassion and dedication that it swept me off my feet and had me in tears every chapter. I cannot comprehend the determination and will to live it would take for these incredible people to live through this. My heart goes out to them with the greatest love. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Clara's War gave me a reality check and made me so grateful for the life I live because even when life seems bad, my life is absolutely nothing compared to what millions have gone through in theirs. I feel so much more aware of history and what goes on in the world. I am going to buy a copy of this book to keep forever and lend to anyone that I can. This book changed my life and I will treasure it always. <3

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barbara H

    It would be so easy to enter into this review of this sad, sad story with a discussion of belief in God. Time after time, war after war, centuries heaped upon each other, there have been senseless, horrifying murders of innocents (sometimes in the name of religion). Yet people who recount these events relate their moments of prayer, how their prayers have saved them and attribute their salvation to their faith. It is not that they have ignored the chaos around them, but few seem to question how It would be so easy to enter into this review of this sad, sad story with a discussion of belief in God. Time after time, war after war, centuries heaped upon each other, there have been senseless, horrifying murders of innocents (sometimes in the name of religion). Yet people who recount these events relate their moments of prayer, how their prayers have saved them and attribute their salvation to their faith. It is not that they have ignored the chaos around them, but few seem to question how a God could allow such things to occur. Yosl Rakover Talks to God is a book which addresses this issue, for an additional viewpoint. However, since I am here to tell of this tale of survival, I will allow readers to formulate their own opinions on these issues. A small, insignificant town in Poland was the site for this family's amazing test of endurance. For 20+ months, 18 people were hidden in a subterranean bunker in horrifying, unbelievable conditions while the war whirled around them. Their savior was Beck, a purportedly anti-Semitic, hard nosed, hard-drinking man, who time after time displayed bravery and cleverness for the sake of these people. The story of the hardships and the heartrending sorrows that these families endured is written by Clara Kramer who was a survivor. She was 15 years old at the time of their concealment and managed to write several diaries which were retrieved at the conclusion of the war. They are now housed in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Of particular interest relating to this refuge is the fact that of the approximate 5,000 original Jewish inhabitants of this town, Zolkiew, only about 56 people survived. Kramer's story is clearly, touchingly written. It is tempting to compare this toThe Diary of a Young Girl, but in some measure, Ann Frank's hiding place was almost lavish. One can almost sense the fear, the starvation, the physical discomforts and disease and the squalid conditions involved in how Clara's group lived and endured . *************************************** For another interesting view and comparison of the total loss sustained in Poland by the Holocaust, view a PBS production of There Once Was A Town (1999), about Lodz. It pictured the grim and horrifying removal of another entire Jewish population who had previously lived in harmony with Christian neighbors. It also focuses on what sadly remains there today. Amazon.com: There Once Was a Town - A Remarkable ... amazon.com 5/30/18 I must also compare the impressive writing of a young teen in The Diary of Mary Berg: Growing up in the Warsaw Ghetto .

  6. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Stahl

    The best stories and movies about the holocaust - what was arguably the most tragic occurence ever to darken the history of mankind - are the ones that don't so much focus on the terror and suffering that the Jewish people went through, but instead seem to highlight the strength and courage that these dark days summoned up in so many people, as they stuck together and supported each other, never losing hope that things would eventually be alright again. That's what makes this true story such an The best stories and movies about the holocaust - what was arguably the most tragic occurence ever to darken the history of mankind - are the ones that don't so much focus on the terror and suffering that the Jewish people went through, but instead seem to highlight the strength and courage that these dark days summoned up in so many people, as they stuck together and supported each other, never losing hope that things would eventually be alright again. That's what makes this true story such an emotional and moving one. Using humor and compassion, Clara Kramer details the unimaginable ordeal that her family went through, and she tells of the truly inspiring courage and selflessness in which their "upstairs" German family protected them throughout the war. Being about the holocaust, this story is of course a very upsetting one, but it leaves you feeling uplifted and thankful that there are still some people in this world that have not gone astray from what God must originally have intended us to be like.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dominique Kyle

    When you walk round Zhovkva, Clara's home town, the huge burned out synagogue is still there, its ruins completely untouched because no-one knows what to do about it. When we knocked on the door of the huge civic buildings to ask if they had any records to look at, he said no, they'd all been taken to L'viv, and were we Jewish? No we weren't - my father in law's family lived in Zhovkva and at the start of the war the Russians invaded and took my father in law away to a prison camp in Siberia. When you walk round Zhovkva, Clara's home town, the huge burned out synagogue is still there, its ruins completely untouched because no-one knows what to do about it. When we knocked on the door of the huge civic buildings to ask if they had any records to look at, he said no, they'd all been taken to L'viv, and were we Jewish? No we weren't - my father in law's family lived in Zhovkva and at the start of the war the Russians invaded and took my father in law away to a prison camp in Siberia. Then the Germans invaded and took the second youngest brother (who was a lawyer) to Auschwitz where he was tortured and shot (the Germans built Auschwitz originally to kill Polish people in - later on it was turned over to the purpose of genocide of the Jews), and the youngest brother (aged 15 at the start of the war and caught in the initial bombing of Zhovkva, seeing people die on the street in front of him) stayed in hiding for two years but was finally caught and put in a German prisoner-of-war camp. And these were just the normal Catholic/Orthodox Polish people (apparently Zhovkva before the war was so open-minded, the family alternated between the churches Sunday by Sunday). When my father in law was born in Zhovkva it was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then it became Poland, then it became the Soviet Union, then it became the Ukraine. After the war, all the Polish speakers were told by the Russians to leave the area or be ethnically cleansed. Poland had a truly terrible twentieth century! If this was the fate of the ordinary Polish people, imagine the fate of the Jews... This memoir is based on the diary 15 year old Clara, a Polish Jew, kept when they were in hiding in Zhovkva during the war. If this book was a made-up story you not only wouldn't believe it, but you would rail at the author for making everything more appalling with every turn of the page. But unfortunately this is a true story and it is only the fact that a picture of the author appears on the back cover - clearly alive and clearly really old now - that makes you feel able to keep turning the pages because you keep screaming 'how can anyone survive this?' And, 'No surely it can't get any worse? Oh no! It just has!' All I can say is - it is really worth reading this book. It's harrowing. But you keep just having to know what happened next. For me of course, there was the extra interest of putting together the reported stories of my in-laws. My father in law escaped from the camp in Siberia in a carcass of a dead cow in a butcher's van, hopped train across the Caucasus, ended up in Persia, joined the British Airforce, never saw his wife and child again, was told they were dead, couldn't go back after the Iron Curtain fell or he would be killed as a traitor by the Russians, married another girl in England, had three boys then found out his wife and son were still alive in Poland and he was a bigamist. This is such a common story in the chaos and mass-movement of people after the war, that virtually every family on mainland Europe has some story like this in the past three generations... There were 5,000 Jews in Zhovkva before the war, Clara was one of only 50 to survive.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Any and every Holocaust memoir is an important book by definition. This book stood out for me for several reasons. The quality of the writing is certainly one such reason. Even compelling stories are not always well organized and well told. This one is. Clara is a keen observer of the people and events around her. And the book she and her co-writer have drawn from the raw material of her diary makes great use her talent. Clara's War also helps us understand the Holocaust in probably the only way Any and every Holocaust memoir is an important book by definition. This book stood out for me for several reasons. The quality of the writing is certainly one such reason. Even compelling stories are not always well organized and well told. This one is. Clara is a keen observer of the people and events around her. And the book she and her co-writer have drawn from the raw material of her diary makes great use her talent. Clara's War also helps us understand the Holocaust in probably the only way we can -- by bringing something vast and incomprehensible into focus on a human scale. The deaths of millions of people, people who, to us, have no names or faces, can seem unreal. But Clara is not focused, on a day to day basis, with the fate of millions. She writes about her relatives, her friends and the people of her town. As the days and weeks drag on, she learns the details of the murder of relatives and friends. Through these stories and others, we learn what happens to the few thousand Jews of Zolkiew. And we know that there were thousands of Zolkiews, large and small, all over Europe. The books stands out most, though, because of the portrait of the Becks -- the family that risked everything to save Clara's family and more than a dozen other Jews in the middle of mass murder on an unprecedented scale. It is often repeated, but nonetheless true, that, if tragedies like the Holocaust (and countless other examples of the human capacity for barbarism -- from Cambodia, to Rwanda to Darfur) show us the worst aspects of humanity, it is the stories of people like the Becks who show us the best. The Becks, for reasons they themselves cannot always explain, put themselves in the gravest danger simply because they are unwilling to look away and remain passive while genocide is occurring all around them. That simple unwillingness is as profound as it is rare. Perhaps telling the story of the Becks will inspire someone, somewhere to display similar humanity and courage when the moment demands it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    This book blew me away. It is the nonfiction account of a Polish-Jewish teenager who, along with seventeen other people, lived in a hidden bunker underneath a house during the Holocaust - and survived. Does that explain why the book blew me away? I find it difficult to write about my feelings toward anything Holocaust-related without sounding trite, which I think is part of the reason why I have procrastinated on writing this review for as long as I have. I'm dumbfounded that humans treated This book blew me away. It is the nonfiction account of a Polish-Jewish teenager who, along with seventeen other people, lived in a hidden bunker underneath a house during the Holocaust - and survived. Does that explain why the book blew me away? I find it difficult to write about my feelings toward anything Holocaust-related without sounding trite, which I think is part of the reason why I have procrastinated on writing this review for as long as I have. I'm dumbfounded that humans treated other humans in that way, although as soon as I say that, I'm sure someone will remind me that similar genocidal acts are occurring in Darfur as I type this - that the capability of humans to deliberately destroy other humans based on race, religion, and/or ethnicity continues to be present even in today's world. Furthermore, I'm dumbfounded that in the midst of all of this, a very small percentage of people risked their lives on a daily basis to save the lives of others - with little to no personal connection sustaining such sacrificial behavior (in Clara's case, her bunker was under the home of her family's former maid and her anti-Semitic husband). I think everyone should read this book. It will horrify you, it will move you, it will make you lose your faith in humanity and then regain it again.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Notaro

    A must-read for anyone interested in Holocust memoirs and diaries. 18 people spent 18 months in a four-foot high hand-dug bunker under one the hidden's houses; their maid and her notirously anti-Semetic husband cared for them, risking their lives as Nazis and SS moved in. Harrowing, compelling and miraculous. Simply, but perfectly written. Highly recc.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Doreen Petersen

    Just as moving and heartfelt as The Diary Of Anne Frank. We must never forget. I would recommend this one to all.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jaksen

    What a book. What a memoir. What a read. The story of Clara Kramer, a Jewish girl who hid with her family for a year and half in a 'bunker' under a house during WWII. In blue-lined notebooks and with a single pencil, Clara kept a diary of what happened to her, her family and three other families hiding with them. No review can do this justice. It's like trying to describe the Diary of Anne Frank and walking away shaking your head, thinking - my little piece does not do justice to this. When Clara What a book. What a memoir. What a read. The story of Clara Kramer, a Jewish girl who hid with her family for a year and half in a 'bunker' under a house during WWII. In blue-lined notebooks and with a single pencil, Clara kept a diary of what happened to her, her family and three other families hiding with them. No review can do this justice. It's like trying to describe the Diary of Anne Frank and walking away shaking your head, thinking - my little piece does not do justice to this. When Clara was fifteen her family was forced to go into hiding. From living an almost idyllic, rural and small town life in southern Poland to living in a 'bunker' - and believe me, it was nothing more than a tight, dirty, cold-in-winter, hot-in-summer crawlspace - with fourteen other people. At the end of the war - or when the Russians liberated the area - only 60 Jews out of a population of 5,000 in the area were still alive. Clara had lost her sister and several family members; however, her parents, niece and nephew and a few others survived. What they had to endure: periods of heat and cold, no bathroom, wearing the same clothes for weeks/months at a time, the threat of disease, fleas and lice, little food and water, and relying on the family upstairs not to turn them in - a nightmare is insufficient word to describe it. The family who saved them - Germans living in Poland, of which there were many - had to allow Nazi soldiers, including SS members, to board in the house. Therefore, Clara and her family had to be absolutely silent for long periods each day. There was one horrific scene where a little girl is crying in fear as German soldiers move into the house mere inches overhead. She's nearly smothered by a pillow in order to keep her quiet. A word must given to the man who harbored, hid, and fed Clara and her family: Beck. A profane, vulgar, coarse individual who became their savior at the possible destruction and death of his own family, Beck never faltered. He protected them knowing if they were found he was dead, as would be his long-suffering but equally valiant wife and daughter. An amazing story, made even more so because it really happened. Ten stars... Okay, five, but it deserves ten.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    For some reason I am somewhat addicted to WWII survival stories and loved this one. Clara Kramer, a young teen at the time, kept diaries during their time in "the bunker" and this memoir is based upon those diaries and her recollections. Clara, her family and eventually 3 other families spent more than 18 months living in a crawl space under the home of a "righteous Christian family." This righteous Christian man was also a self proclaimed anti-Semite, a drunkard, and a philanderer who selects For some reason I am somewhat addicted to WWII survival stories and loved this one. Clara Kramer, a young teen at the time, kept diaries during their time in "the bunker" and this memoir is based upon those diaries and her recollections. Clara, her family and eventually 3 other families spent more than 18 months living in a crawl space under the home of a "righteous Christian family." This righteous Christian man was also a self proclaimed anti-Semite, a drunkard, and a philanderer who selects one of the women, his wife's best friend no less, hiding in his crawlspace as his mistress. A man who apparently did not balk at taking a swing at his long suffering wife now and then. I do not think any contemporary acquaintance would have judged him a righteous man and yet he saved the lives of 18 Jews. All the more amazing that when you consider that of the 5,000 Jews in Clara's village on 52 were still living after the War and Clara's group were the only families they knew that had both parents survive. This is of course a story of hardship but with the telling of the tragedy there is always hope, even in their darkest hours, as Clara says in a brief YouTube clip, you want to survive. The descriptive and summary information tells you the basics, that the family stayed hidden, surviving fire, fear that their drunken protector would accidentally spill the beans, drinking and card parties upstairs and having Nazi soldiers living in requisitioned rooms right over their very heads. Amazing. My only wish, okay, maybe two wishes, is that somehow we had a little of the Becks tale. I suspect Clara would wish that too. Beck continued to feed and protect them long after their money and anything they had to sell ran out. I would love to have his thoughts and feelings on how the war and protecting this people changed him. And as is almost always the case with memoirs and works about history I wish for more maps and photographs. I realize that when war and the almost total destruction of a community of people is involved that there is probably not much to work with but I do wish I could see more pictures of their village and the people involved. Excellent read about a terrible time that does not bog down in the horror. Clara's experiences made her want to be a better person, to live up to the great gift of survival as a way to honor her sister and the risk and sacrifices of the Beck family. She has kept that promise to herself, with her life's work and this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jaksen

    This review appears elsewhere on Goodreads. There are at least two titles for this book. This review can also be found under Clara's War, Clara Kramer What a book. What a memoir. What a read. The story of Clara Kramer, a Jewish girl who hid with her family for a year and half in a 'bunker' under a house during WWII. In blue-lined notebooks and with a single pencil, Clara kept a diary of what happened to her, her family and three other families hiding with them. No review can do this justice. It's This review appears elsewhere on Goodreads. There are at least two titles for this book. This review can also be found under Clara's War, Clara Kramer What a book. What a memoir. What a read. The story of Clara Kramer, a Jewish girl who hid with her family for a year and half in a 'bunker' under a house during WWII. In blue-lined notebooks and with a single pencil, Clara kept a diary of what happened to her, her family and three other families hiding with them. No review can do this justice. It's like trying to describe the Diary of Anne Frank and walking away shaking your head, thinking - my little piece does not do justice to this. When Clara was fifteen her family was forced to go into hiding. From living an almost idyllic, rural and small town life in southern Poland to living in a 'bunker' - and believe me, it was nothing more than a tight, dirty, cold-in-winter, hot-in-summer crawlspace - with fourteen other people. At the end of the war - or when the Russians liberated the area - only 60 Jews out of a population of 5,000 in the area were still alive. Clara had lost her sister and several family members; however, her parents, niece and nephew and a few others survived. What they had to endure: periods of heat and cold, no bathroom, wearing the same clothes for weeks/months at a time, the threat of disease, fleas and lice, little food and water, and relying on the family upstairs not to turn them in - a nightmare is insufficient word to describe it. The family who saved them - Germans living in Poland, of which there were many - had to allow Nazi soldiers, including SS members, to board in the house. Therefore, Clara and her family had to be absolutely silent for long periods each day. There was one horrific scene where a little girl is crying in fear as German soldiers move into the house mere inches overhead. She's nearly smothered by a pillow in order to keep her quiet. A word must given to the man who harbored, hid, and fed Clara and her family: Beck. A profane, vulgar, coarse individual who became their savior at the possible destruction and death of his own family, Beck never faltered. He protected them knowing if they were found he was dead, as would be his long-suffering but equally valiant wife and daughter. An amazing story, made even more so because it really happened. Ten stars... Okay, five, but it deserves ten.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cynda

    I read this for Jewish History Month 2019. Kolkiew, Poland during WWII. Clara Kramer (then Shawarz) hid with her family along with two other families and a married couple during the Nazi invasion and installation in a bunker under a friend of a friend's house. Three teenaged family members (including Clara) dug the bunker out of the earth, dug, scooped, and stomped down on the loosened earth to compact as no one could risk being seen tossing out dugout earth. Much effort as possible was made, yet I read this for Jewish History Month 2019. Kolkiew, Poland during WWII. Clara Kramer (then Shawarz) hid with her family along with two other families and a married couple during the Nazi invasion and installation in a bunker under a friend of a friend's house. Three teenaged family members (including Clara) dug the bunker out of the earth, dug, scooped, and stomped down on the loosened earth to compact as no one could risk being seen tossing out dugout earth. Much effort as possible was made, yet no adult could stand up straight in this bunker. Part of the reason this group survived is due to explemary carpentry skills and the basic construction concepts. The conditions became as inhumane as any I could ever imagine. If you would like to know about the power of working class skills, the power of the human will to live, the power of love, the power of social masks (yes), then you may very well like to read this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Like reading Diary of Anne Frank, except they survive. This is a page turning tale of stupefying cruelty and deadly indifference set in Poland, where first the Russians, then the Germans, and then the Russians again after the War, terrorized the Polish, Jews and non-Jews alike. It is unfathomable to me that 18 people lived in a dug out hole under a house for two years, surviving only because of the goodness of a drunk, wife-beating Polish man. Since I've read this, I've been embarrassed about Like reading Diary of Anne Frank, except they survive. This is a page turning tale of stupefying cruelty and deadly indifference set in Poland, where first the Russians, then the Germans, and then the Russians again after the War, terrorized the Polish, Jews and non-Jews alike. It is unfathomable to me that 18 people lived in a dug out hole under a house for two years, surviving only because of the goodness of a drunk, wife-beating Polish man. Since I've read this, I've been embarrassed about the little annoyances that anger me - like when I was stuck on an airplane for 10 hours. Imagine being stuck under a house with 18 people for 2 years, with no bathroom, little food, no bathing, lice, infection, unending terror of discovery. Highly recommended if you need some perspective.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susanne Behrens

    I was profoundly touched by this book. I could not put it down. I wonder if I could find the strength needed to survive under the conditions Clara and her family had to live. I do not know how her parents and the other parents could go on with the tremendous personal losses they suffered. I highly recommend this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This book was intense. It told of the horrors this Jewish family and their friends had to endure in Poland. Overall it has a good message, but Clara Kramer tells it how it was - and the truth is sickening. This book is not for everyone, but I am glad I read it. I'd love to go to the museum in DC and see her diary from that time. 5 - Writing Style (Well done.) 5 - Kept me Awake at Night Reading (Yes, but it was pretty intense. I found myself needing to take breaks from it.) 5 - Good Discussion Book This book was intense. It told of the horrors this Jewish family and their friends had to endure in Poland. Overall it has a good message, but Clara Kramer tells it how it was - and the truth is sickening. This book is not for everyone, but I am glad I read it. I'd love to go to the museum in DC and see her diary from that time. 5 - Writing Style (Well done.) 5 - Kept me Awake at Night Reading (Yes, but it was pretty intense. I found myself needing to take breaks from it.) 5 - Good Discussion Book (For sure.) 2 - Violence (Yes. Horrific what they had to go through. But I think we need to know. I wouldn't recommend this to younger readers.) 3 - Sex (More of an adult book. I wish it wasn't in there, but in the same breath that's what happened.) 2 - Language (There was some foul language. Be warned. I wish she could have alluded to some of Beck's use of words.) 5 - Unique (I hadn't read before about anyone's experience hiding in a bunker. I'm glad I got to see the experience through the eyes of Clara.)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Correen

    There were 5000 Jews in Zolkiew, Poland before WWII and just 50 survivors afterwards. Of those, all soon left because of pogroms and discrimination. Clara and her family were among 18 persons who spent up to 18 months in a small bunker under the home of a very brave German spy who worked for the local police and withstood unspeakable odds to keep his charges safe. Clara documented this experience in a diary, now in the U.S. Holocaust Museum. This book is written from her diaries and interviews There were 5000 Jews in Zolkiew, Poland before WWII and just 50 survivors afterwards. Of those, all soon left because of pogroms and discrimination. Clara and her family were among 18 persons who spent up to 18 months in a small bunker under the home of a very brave German spy who worked for the local police and withstood unspeakable odds to keep his charges safe. Clara documented this experience in a diary, now in the U.S. Holocaust Museum. This book is written from her diaries and interviews with Clara. I have put off reading this book -- WWII stories are disturbing and painful and often more than I want to experience again. Like most other books in this genre, it took me awhile to get past my resistance but once involved, I had to keep reading. It is very well done and is a horrifying but a high impact story.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Akari T

    After reading Anne Frank's diary and learning about the Holocaust from a few other sources, I thought I'd gotten the whole picture. Oh boy, was I wrong! Clara Kramer (previously Schwarz) opened my eyes to another world far more dismal than Anne's. But who am I to compare these situations? No one can accurately describe the pain Holocaust victims and survivors felt other than themselves. However, I can say that Ms. Kramer allowed me to experience a fraction of that pain through her extremely After reading Anne Frank's diary and learning about the Holocaust from a few other sources, I thought I'd gotten the whole picture. Oh boy, was I wrong! Clara Kramer (previously Schwarz) opened my eyes to another world far more dismal than Anne's. But who am I to compare these situations? No one can accurately describe the pain Holocaust victims and survivors felt other than themselves. However, I can say that Ms. Kramer allowed me to experience a fraction of that pain through her extremely detailed and emotional writing. To compensate for my original vain misbelief, I am going to find as many biographies, diaries, and historical recounts that I can and read them back-to-back.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    How do you rate a book which so profoundly affects you and touches the deepest, darkest and scariest corners of your heart? And yet leaves me with a sense of hope and respect for the strength of the human spirit. This narrative is an amazing story of survival against all odds. For 18 months, 16 year old Polish-Jewish born Clara Schwarz and 17 other Jews (including 2 young children) hid in a dug-out bunker underneath the house of a Volksdeutsche neighbour to escape Nazi atrocities committed How do you rate a book which so profoundly affects you and touches the deepest, darkest and scariest corners of your heart? And yet leaves me with a sense of hope and respect for the strength of the human spirit. This narrative is an amazing story of survival against all odds. For 18 months, 16 year old Polish-Jewish born Clara Schwarz and 17 other Jews (including 2 young children) hid in a dug-out bunker underneath the house of a “Volksdeutsche” neighbour to escape Nazi atrocities committed against the Jewish community of Zolkiew, Poland, during WW2. Jammed into the dark and airless space like sardines in a can, unable to stand up straight and suffering from thirst, hunger and disease, the 18 fugitives face the daily threat of discovery and death. Saved only by the generosity and courage of Mr Beck, his wife Julia and their daughter, the group live through a fire, frequent bombings, the commission of the Becks’ house by Nazi soldiers and investigations by the Ukrainian police into allegations that Jews are being hidden in the house. All that time, young Clara keeps a diary of their lives in the bunker – excerpts of which are shared with the reader at the beginning of every chapter. The fugitives’ survival is not only a miracle, but also a testimony to the human survival spirit and the kindness of others. If the Nazi atrocities will churn your stomach, the courage and generosity of the Beck family will renew your faith in the goodness in people. I had the audio version of this book, which kept me enthralled for many hours during my daily commute to and from work. Whilst I found the beginning of the book a bit hard to get into, owing to the foreign names of the many characters in the narrative, which seemed overwhelming in the audio version, I was soon drawn into Clara’s life and looked forward to my time in the car. It was impossible not to be touched by this story – I cried when Clara’s sister died, I rejoiced when the two children were found, and twice I had to turn off the sound just to get a break from the suffering those courageous people had to endure. Growing up in a country of peace and plentiful it is hard to imagine Clara’s life in the bunker, and how people who have survived such suffering still manage to lead happy lives afterwards. Everyone with an interest in history, or an appreciation of human nature in its best and worst form, should read this book. Like the Diary of Anne Frank, this book gives a true and invaluable account of life during WW2, and will stay with me for a long time – giving me a new appreciation of life and peace. A truly remarkable book, told by a remarkable person.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Serena (thebookunicorns)

    This was, as all holocaust stories are, a very sad book. So many lives cut short, and so much hatred and cold-blooded killing. The fact that this was real makes it so much harder. Clara's War follows the life of a Polish Jewish teenager, Clara Schwarz (now Kramer), during the Holocaust. She survives with her family because of the bravery and generosity of the Becks, a family who hid them during the course of the war in a bunker underneath their house. During this, Clara records everything in her This was, as all holocaust stories are, a very sad book. So many lives cut short, and so much hatred and cold-blooded killing. The fact that this was real makes it so much harder. Clara's War follows the life of a Polish Jewish teenager, Clara Schwarz (now Kramer), during the Holocaust. She survives with her family because of the bravery and generosity of the Becks, a family who hid them during the course of the war in a bunker underneath their house. During this, Clara records everything in her journals, where she tells her story. However, unlike many Holocaust recounts this is not directly her journals (which are now on display in the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC) but a retelling of the story looking back at it. I'm not going to really review the actual story because it was real so it's kind of ridiculous to ridicule/admire it. However, I will say that the storytelling was not as good as it could have been. The writing really annoyed me on some occasions, but more often than not it just fell a little flat. This is a book that would have really benefited from good writing but didn't have it. As for the way the story was told, I often felt that very important scenes were glazed over and other less important scenes were given too much detail. Perhaps it's because the story is written by someone looking back over a long time- they remember it well enough that it's hard to see how an outsider would perceive it- but nonetheless, it gets very tiring. By the end of the book, I felt I had an okay sense for many of the characters, but for the first 200 pages, I had no idea what was going on with them. They all seemed the same! There were so many names I just gave up on remembering because I had no idea anything about the person. Though I have many complaints about this book, I didn't hate it. At times I got very invested in the lives of the people and I lost track of time while reading it (which is always a good sign!). Although it was not the best book I've read all year, it also was not the worst.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    The next time I think I'm having a bad day, I'll remember Clara Kramer...a Holocaust survivor. Truly amazing to read excerpts from her diary and her recollections of her life from March 1940 to September 1944. Much of this time spent hiding underground with the help of a Gentile couple. This couple, a drunken Anti-Semite and his wife that raged about his cheating, were worshiped by Clara as her heroes and saviors. Sometimes, German soldiers and the SS lived above them so silence was survival. In The next time I think I'm having a bad day, I'll remember Clara Kramer...a Holocaust survivor. Truly amazing to read excerpts from her diary and her recollections of her life from March 1940 to September 1944. Much of this time spent hiding underground with the help of a Gentile couple. This couple, a drunken Anti-Semite and his wife that raged about his cheating, were worshiped by Clara as her heroes and saviors. Sometimes, German soldiers and the SS lived above them so silence was survival. In all, 18 people lived in this cramped space. The book includes photos of the people and the hiding place. A fascinating read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ann Riley

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A young girl and most of her family survive the war by living under a neighbor's home in an underground bunker with 18 others for 28 months. An unbelievable and unimaginable experience. What we take for granted...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Becki

    Really enjoyed this book. A different perspective than being in a concentration camp - but still being held prisoner. I have actually never read The Diary of Anne Frank but this diary was very good.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Z˙ǝᴉʌ

    This book had been sitting in my book case, unopened, for a couple of years, after I had received as a present. (I think my aunt got it from some type of estate sale.) I honestly didn't was to read it, because usually I DNF World War II Historical Fiction. Clara really brought me into how Polish people like her friends, and family were surviving during the Holocaust. I loved, loved, loved this book and after reading this I realized how much historical fiction aimed at middle-grades leaves out This book had been sitting in my book case, unopened, for a couple of years, after I had received as a present. (I think my aunt got it from some type of estate sale.) I honestly didn't was to read it, because usually I DNF World War II Historical Fiction. Clara really brought me into how Polish people like her friends, and family were surviving during the Holocaust. I loved, loved, loved this book and after reading this I realized how much historical fiction aimed at middle-grades leaves out details. Honestly, once you read this, you'll see how much you're missing out. (*koff* Jennifer Nielsen*koff*). There were many character's who I felt was hard to interpret, like Mr. Beck. He definitely had a big role in the story. It broke my heart to see SO many main/secondary characters die, and I realized that the lifespan for a average person during this time was 20 years, MAX. Anyone who survived, and lived longer was considered a miracle. Anyway, a couple of things surprised me about this book, after reading it (Considering, this book was left unopened, this was normal) 1) This book was signed by the author, Clara Kramer. I usually don't buy books, nor do I get books signed, so this was really coooooll 2) The author is still living, now leading up to 94! phew. that's all. (btw, this is my THIRD time writing this. all the other review's got deleted. heh. )

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maria Carmo

    A magnificent account of life in hiding, this diary of Clara brings the reader to yet another form of survival: how eighteen people were saved by an ethnically German man in Poland, risking his life and his family's, in exchange for nothing but hard times during and after the war. This is not an Annex such as the one described in Anne Frank's Diary; this is a bunker under the floor where 18 people of different families had to keep down because there was not enough space to stand up, this is a A magnificent account of life in hiding, this diary of Clara brings the reader to yet another form of survival: how eighteen people were saved by an ethnically German man in Poland, risking his life and his family's, in exchange for nothing but hard times during and after the war. This is not an Annex such as the one described in Anne Frank's Diary; this is a bunker under the floor where 18 people of different families had to keep down because there was not enough space to stand up, this is a space where they are totally dependent on someone telling them it is safe to go up and empty their pots and get water and potatoes... A magnificent testimony of Humanity... Maria Carmo, Lisbon, 8 July 2020.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Sebesta

    Clara and her family survived nearly two years hiding in a bunker when the Nazis then the Russians then the Nazis invaded Poland and started killing Jews. This memoir is an elaboration of the diary the then-teenager wrote during this terrible time. There is very little of the actual diary in this book - essentially only snippets that preface most of the chapters, each of which covers then weex or months. Rather, the diary entries serve to introduce her reminisces about what happened during those Clara and her family survived nearly two years hiding in a bunker when the Nazis then the Russians then the Nazis invaded Poland and started killing Jews. This memoir is an elaboration of the diary the then-teenager wrote during this terrible time. There is very little of the actual diary in this book - essentially only snippets that preface most of the chapters, each of which covers then weex or months. Rather, the diary entries serve to introduce her reminisces about what happened during those times, letting her recreate conversations and situations so the flow becomes readable and meaningful.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    This book was hard to put down ... one of those that you want to just read in one sitting but don't have time to do so. And yet, the content is incredibly disturbing ... a grim reminder of the depths of human depravity and the powerful resilience of the human spirit in the face of incredible suffering.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Digna Cassens

    A real life horror from a childs experience This book was absorbing, sad and most horrible, true. Each character comes alive and the terrors suffered became real while reading it. A real life horror from a child’s experience This book was absorbing, sad and most horrible, true. Each character comes alive and the terrors suffered became real while reading it.

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