The authors of this book tracked down survivors of Josef Mengele’s experiments in Auschwitz in order to tell their tale. Published in 1991, it seems they came to the task just in time. The stories are sad, it’s true, but they also speak to the survival of the spirit and the journey to new lives by these twins.
I was drawn to this book for several reasons. First of all, I am a twin. It is something inescapable how people saw us, especially when we were children, as a single unit. Secondly, I grew up in Upstate New York where a lot of Polish immigrants had settled. There seemed to be something in the DNA of the place that made the stories of the Holocaust vital to be transmitted to the next generation. In the 1990’s, as schoolkids, we were honored to hear first-hand from a Holocaust survivor. It’s an experience which will forever stay with me. Finally, in the eighth grade, I wrote a research paper on Himmler for a class. It was in this research, pre-internet, mind you, that I first read about Dr. Mengele and his experiments. I could only imagine at that time what those experiments entailed.
This is not the book to read if you want gritty details of Dr. Mengele’s experiment. What this book offers is a vibrant tale of the varied lives of the twins before the camps; poor, rich, educated, or too young to read, the heartbreak of being separated from their families, the discomfort and pain of procedures they and/or their twin experienced, the survivor’s guilt of out-living so many others, just because a chance of nature (identical) or genetics (fraternal) meant they were born twins. It is also the story of making something of their lives after their release. A powerful testimony deserving of its place in history, a story more people should know, Matalon Lagnado and Cohn Dekel have done an excellent job of preserving the stories of the survivors with the context to let them reverberate throughout history.