The International School for Holocaust Studies
I Have Lived a Thousand Years – Growing up in the Holocaust
Reviewed by Kathryn Berman
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1997
The author, whose former name was Elli Friedmann, lives a happy carefree life in her village of Somorja, Czechoslovakia, set in the beautiful Carpathian foothills. She writes of the life of any thirteen-year-old who has only the future to look forward to. But everything changes for her in March, 1944, when the Nazis invade Hungary. Her school closes, and soon a normal existence is a thing of the past. Elli, her mother, and brother are sent to a ghetto in Nagymagyar and from there to Auschwitz, Plaszow, Augsburg, and other camps where she describes from her teenage perspective what she experiences. Livia Bitton-Jackson has written her memoir for the third generation so they should remember what happened. Hers is a story of unimaginable brutality, but also of faith, hope, and courage, exemplified by her closing message: Never give up.
There is a useful appendix at the back of the book, which chronicles the events from September, 1938, when Hungarian troops occupy Somorja, to September, 1945, when Elli, her mother, and her brother immigrate to the United States. There is also a chronology of historical events and a glossary of terms.
We would recommend this book for grades 10 upwards. Teachers should take note to explain to their students that there are some graphic descriptions of death and brutality in the book.