By Mark Kurzem
When a death squad massacred his mother and fellow villagers, five-year-old Alex escaped, hiding in the freezing Russian forest until he was picked up by a group of Latvian SS soldiers. Alex was able to hide his Jewish identity and win over the soldiers, becoming their mascot and an honorary “corporal” in the SS with his own uniform. But what began as a desperate bid for survival became a performance that delighted the highest ranks of the Nazi elite. And so a young Jewish boy ended up starring in a Nazi propaganda film.
After sixty-three years of silence, Alex revealed his terrible secret to his son Mark. With his son’s help, Alex retraced his past in search of answers. His story is at once a terrifying account of survival and its psychological cost as well as a brutally honest examination of identity, complicity, and memory.
Another BRA bookclub selection. I can't say that I really loved the way the story was told, although it is a powerful, shocking story. I would have been quite happy to read it as a case study or a shorter story. The feelings were varied at our book club meeting. Some loved it, and some felt like me. We all felt for his family too - the son Mark keeping his father's secrets and the loyal wife unaware until much later.