Jafa Wallach (author); BITTER FREEDOM; Gihon River Press (Nonfiction: Autobiography & Memoir) 17.95 ISBN: 9780981990637
Byline: Dindy Yokel
"Five minutes to liberation; four minutes to death," writes Jafa Wallach in, Bitter Freedom: Memoir of a Holocaust Survivor. This shocking, terrifying statement catapults the reader into German-occupied Poland in December 1942, when the author thought liberation imminent.
An accurate tally of Holocaust survivors alive today is elusive and varies from source to source. What does not vary is the Jewish cultural mantra, "we must never forget." And, what is certain is the miracle of Jafa Wallach's long life -- she died at the age of 101 in 2011 -- permitting her to draft and reflect upon a memoir that is a visceral testament to an unparalleled atrocity.
Wallach spent twenty months with her husband and three grown siblings hiding underground in a space that was six-by-four-and-a-half feet and just under four feet at the tallest point. This insect-infested space was shorter and narrower than a queen-size bed. Given the dimensions, muscles that had not been used for just shy of two years were of little concern to Wallach when, "at 11 in the morning of September 15, 1944, we left JA[sup.3]zio's house, hobbling weakly on canes but strong in our resolution. We tottered through the town in which 5,000 Jews had once lived. We were all that remained alive of these, we and two others."
Why read Bitter Freedom? Because it is a no-holds-barred account of a grotesque existence that did not stamp out Wallach's faith in God; because the suffering Wallach endured for years did not dampen her empathy for others, which was evidenced in her concern for her protectors (JA[sup.3]zio and his family) and those suffering alongside her. Micro amounts of food were shared not only with those who came begging on a near-daily basis, but with the animal inhabitants of Wallach's hiding space. Her husband, Natan, a physician...