I don’t know where I was when we talked about World War II in history class. Maybe I just tuned it out. I remember getting a little pit in my stomach every time I heard the name Hitler. I remember studying it a little, but maybe I was in denial that anything could ever have happened that was so horrible. I did read, The Diary of Anne Frank and heard about Hitler and some of the horrible things that went on during that time, but I kind of avoided reading, or learning more about it. It was something I couldn’t even fathom happening. When I had the opportunity to review this book, Surviving Hitler, for Deseret Book I decided to participate. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction (which I should), but after seeing the title I realized it would be good for to read and learn more about this time period.
Surviving Hitler is a true story written by O. Hakan Palm, the son of Gustav and Agnes who the story is written about. It is actually told in their own words in journal form going back and forth between the two of them.
Gustav Palm kept his secret for more than forty years. He’d been a young man when Hitler invaded his native Norway. After being forced to guard a Nazi prison camp, however, Gustav took his only option for escape: he volunteered for the Waffen-SS to fight at the front.
Agnes Erdös grew up in privilege and prosperity as a child in Hungary. She and her parents were practicing Roman Catholics, but they were ethnic Jews, and after the Nazis invaded her country, Agnes and her parents were sent to the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Miraculously, both Agnes and Gustav survived. And after the war, they found each other.
Told in their own words, Surviving Hitler is the story of two indomitable spirits who built on their life-altering experiences to overcome the past, help each other heal, and embrace a common faith in God that led them to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Growing up hearing about Hitler and the horrible things that he did, and hearing about all the people who worked for him made me thing everyone that worked for Hitler was just as bad as him. I was wrong. Gustav had been convinced to join the socialist party and told that he could be a Police Officer, thinking he would be a traffic police, he took the opportunity to make better money than being a farmer. He was completely manipulated and found himself instead feeling as a “prisoner guarding prisoners” as he found himself a guard at a Nazi prison camp. He did get out of that because he hated it and was able to become an SS Solider and fight on the front lines. It hit me that so many members of Hitlers army did not want to do what they did, but they were forced to do it. They felt like prisoners themselves.
The stories about Agnes and surviving Auscchwitz and all the horrible things she went through was very touching and eye-opening. It was amazing how much she saw the hand of God working in her life. She was meant to survive. Before they got to the concentration camp her father gave her a blessing, a blessing that prepared her for the rest of her life. Words that helped her get through all that she went though knowing that she WOULD make it!
Their amazing story encompasses true faith, forgiveness, and unconditional love. Near the end it talks about how they met and found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This book is amazing, inspirational and wonderful! It is very well written and tasteful. The way they formatted it in journal entries makes it a quick read that you don’t want to put down.. Full of emotion I read through this book and learned so much. It really put my life in perspective and helped me feel more grateful for my own life. I am so blessed and my life, compared to Agnes and Gustav’s lives, is easy. I recommend this book to High-school age and older. It is an amazing read and you will not regret spending time reading it!
I received this ARC copy from Deseret Book in return for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for this review. These are my own thoughts on the book.