Her father, Roman Bawnik, had owned a chemical factory and had felt confident that life for him, his wife, and two daughters, would probably remain the same. Within days, the factory was seized, Mr. Bawnik became an employee rather than an owner, Mrs. Bawnik became a housekeeper for the wife of a high-ranking Nazi official, and the girls began being tutored because they could no longer go to public school.

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Reviewed by Shary Parker. The course is part of her honors requirements. This was her freshman year. My initial satisfaction at leaving Poland gave way to an uneasy feeling of rejection. Poland did not want me, it forced me to become someone else. My feeling of resentment was joined by regret, sadness, and a depressed tiredness. Yet, I wanted to be conscious of the actual crossing of the border.

I was determined not to shut my eyes till this happened. Relieved, I realized that it had happened less painfully than I had expected.

Right then, in this new and strange place that I could not see, I promised myself never again to pretend to be someone else. This promise I kept. Tec, pp. Unlike most Holocaust survivors, she did not write this as a warning, or even as a reminder; nor did she inflict this work upon herself just to tell a story. Nechama Tec was less then ten years old when Nazi Germany invaded her homeland of Poland.

Still a child, she did not understand what was happening to her, nor what would happen to her and her family in the coming years Tec, pp. Despite not understanding the majority of things happening to her, she was forced to know enough to keep herself alive. Absolutely everything had to be kept a secret, she could never question anything pp.

For the rest of the war, survival was the only concern pp. Wise for her age, Nechama Tec did know that she was different; she was a Jew. She did not exactly know what it meant to be Jewish, her parents had never really told her, but she knew too, that she was different from the other Jews. Through this disguise she was able to watch the world around her, safe within a different self.

This false self became almost real to her. Each time a danger came, she could slip into the role quicker and easier. Eventually she actually believed the role she was playing. Being able to come out in the open, with others unaware of her real self, Nechama Tec felt partly like she was betraying her family, and her true identity, but she also felt a sense of satisfaction.

It was this disguise and ability to transform herself, that would keep her through the war, and yet torment her afterwards. Jews were picked up off the streets and deported, or shot on sight for no apparent reason, other than that they were Jews. The yellow Star of David was to be placed in the upper left corner of every article of clothing, a curfew was imposed, portions of cities were declared Judenrein 3 , and every Jew must bow deeply whenever they encountered a German.

Failure to adhere to any of this was punishable by beatings, deportation, or even death Tec, pp. I read stories about animals in the forest that were being protected. What really bothered me the most, I think, was there was no safety net. There was no one you could go to. It was like being worse than an animal. I realized at the time that our level of existence was worse than an animal.

They had some protection, there were only certain months you could shoot them. Greenfeld, pp. In the beginning of the war, money was not an issue for the Bawnik family, and this may indeed have been one of the factors that saved them.

Because of her golden hair and flawless Polish, Nechama Tec, had the best chance of survival by assimilation, and her sister too might survive this way. Thus, with her false identification papers, Nechama Tec became Pelagia Pawlowska, and severed the relations she knew to her parents and sister Tec, pp. Their father too had a good chance at being able to cross over 6 , though his Polish was not nearly as fluent, and a physical check would end everything as it was with any male 7.

It was necessary then, to find a Polish family willing to hide the two of them, and act as adopted parents or relatives to Nechama Tec and her sister. Many families hid Jews during the war, and children were hidden in all the orphanages and boarding houses available. Most did this because they disagreed with the Germans, felt it was their duty as Christians, or just because they somehow knew it was right.

They did not think about what they were doing, or the consequences of being caught. Most, also, did not ask for much money, if any, and even then usually only enough to help feed the ones being hidden Greenfeld, pp. These people were, however, hard to find, and definitely not the majority.

There were also to be found, a few families willing to hide Jews at an unimaginable price. As in any time of war, money is a precious commodity, and with enough money one can get anything, even an anti-Semitic family willing to hide Jews. Thus, Nechama Tec and her sister changed names yet again. These names were chosen carefully so as to help them appear as generic Poles Tec, pp. Being sisters meant that their new family and background had to match exactly, word for word and family member for family member, birth date for birth date.

To make things easier, some relatives were dead, but too many dead relatives would arouse suspicion. Aware of their comparative ignorance of the Catholic religion the majority of Poles being Catholic , the sisters also began memorizing the Catholic prayers, and some practices of their new religion pp.

Having their hiders, the Homars, financially dependent on them, kept the Bawniks that much safer, but what would happen when money ran out? When this time seemed evident to come, it was decided that selling rolls on the black market might add enough money to help them make it through the war.

Rations had been in place since the beginning of the war, and black market operations were common. As a rule, the Nazis left them alone, except for a few random raids, and crack-downs on Vodka and meat operations.

Nechama Tec and her sister, however, had been introduced to neighbors as cousins who lost their families in the war, and were, for the most part, free to roam around the town.

At this young age of eleven, Nechama Tec took on the task of selling rolls on the black market, and ultimately supporting her entire family and the family hiding them. This little operation had turned into a major one, and was bringing in enough money to feed everyone no less than twelve people , with a little left over Tec, pp.

This black market operation kept the Bawniks alive for the rest of the war. Despite her age, throughout the war Nechama Tec had to have the appearance of an adult.

The Nazis targeted children especially; they did not want them growing up and adding to the Jewish population they were already trying to get rid of. This meant that Nechama Tec had to be constantly conscious of her surroundings, ready for anything.

There was no questioning, it was a matter of survival. Like other children of the Holocaust, her childhood was taken from her before she knew what was happening Greenfeld, pp. She was forced to grow up too fast with no explanation Tec, pp. It was so scary. I asked my mother, Why? What is happening? And she tried to toughen me up and said, This is life.

And I said to myself, This is life? How come? And I never asked that question again. I was not quite ten years old at the time.

Nechama Tec struggled with what had happened to her, and who she had become for a long time. Originally a young girl in an expensive and entirely Jewish private school, she was yanked out at the start of the war, and from that point on forced to take on several foreign identities.

She became a Pole and a Catholic on the outside, while hiding her real self on the inside. Many times, she took refuge inside a church. Inside a church I felt like neither a Christian nor a Jew, but only a human being, who had a terrible need to confide in someone.

In the stillness I could whisper my secrets without fear, and whether it was a Christian or a Jewish God who listened to me did not matter. What mattered was that I had someone to confide in, and that he was listening. All my life revolved around hiding; hiding thoughts, hiding feelings, hiding my activities, hiding information.

Sometimes I felt like a sort of fearful automaton, always on alert, always dreading that something fatal might be revealed. When they returned to their home, it was not safe.

She and her sister were sent off to boarding school still passing as Christians. We were introduced to our landlords as Christians who came from the province to study. Only on rare occasions when we met our parents and with them visited Jewish friends did we briefly become Jews.

Otherwise we were passing. I felt rebellious. I resented being forced once more to become someone else, but I continued to play the role; I had to. But inside me my objections multiplied. No doubt resentment with disappointment prevented adjustment. As long as I stayed in Lodz 10 I felt like an outsider.

An outsider that was aware of the ugliness of the city, of my narrrow-minded fellow students, the uninspired instructions of my teachers, the dullness of the landlords, and my own restless loneliness Tec, pp.

Despite her inside turmoil, Nechama Tec was forced to play her role, forever hiding and denying who she really was. Life went on like this until it was no longer safe for them to live in Poland. Anti-Semitism was bad enough that it forced them to leave for Germany Once there, Tec vowed never to pretend again Tec, pp.


Dry Tears: The Story of a Lost Childhood

Reviewed by Shary Parker. The course is part of her honors requirements. This was her freshman year. My initial satisfaction at leaving Poland gave way to an uneasy feeling of rejection. Poland did not want me, it forced me to become someone else. My feeling of resentment was joined by regret, sadness, and a depressed tiredness. Yet, I wanted to be conscious of the actual crossing of the border.


Dry Tears: The Story of a Lost Childhood

Dry Tears is a dramatic tale of how an eleven-year-old child learned to "pass in the forbidding Christian world and a quietly moving coming-of-age story. This book is unique celebration of the best human qualities that surface under the worst conditions. Excerpt Shortly after the occupation of Lublin in Jewish children had been barred from attending school and private instruction was prohibited. As with all such Nazi directives, disobedience if discovered met with severe punishment, even death. When our own school was closed -- I was eight at the time -- I was not in the least upset. But my parents reacted differently. They insisted that after the war my sister and I would need all the education we could get.


Dry tears : the story of a lost childhood

Shelves: memoir-autobiographical-or-biograph , history-current-events-non-fictio , facing-history-themes , human-rights Beautifully written memoir by a woman who was 8 years old in Sept. She describes how she and her Jewish family survived in detail, through relationships with Christian Poles, in hiding where her parents had to hide completely but she and her sister took on the identities of two Polish girls and so could participate in helping to support their family. The characters are drawn fully and with generous complexity, so we see that the Polish family who are hiding them Beautifully written memoir by a woman who was 8 years old in Sept. The characters are drawn fully and with generous complexity, so we see that the Polish family who are hiding them death is the punishment if they are denounced are also unreflective antisemites, hating the imaginary stereotype which they take without question to be true, even though the real life examples in front of them bear no resemblance to it. In fact, they go to the father of the family for advice, and he shows himself to be the master diplomat.


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At the top is the concentration-camp survivor who is obsessed with the experience and feels compelled to tell his story, and on the bottom is the hidden child who lived his childhood as a non-Jew, neither deported nor incarcerated, and who keeps the milhomeh yahren war years to himself. Though both groups acknowledge that to honor the memory of the brutally murdered is to never forget—and, thus, to reveal what was concealed, denied, minimized, and destroyed—there are distinct variables between them. A common thread among camp survivors is forever living the guilt and pain of surviving, and that for the hidden children is forever remembering the idiosyncrasy of surviving by any means necessary. In the whole of Jewish history there has been no more murderous an age, no period more villainous for the Jew, than the Shoah.

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