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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Geschichte
Weaving mystery, history and memoir, Irena’s Gift is the extraordinary moving, captivating account of one woman’s personal quest to uncover the unspoken and give voice to her family’s secret war-torn history.
From the glittering concert halls of interbellum Warsaw and the vermin-infested prison where a Jewish woman negotiates with an SS officer for a child’s life, to the author’s upbringing in a Christian home, this is the story of resilience, sacrifice, Jewish identity, intergenerational trauma, and the secrets we keep to protect ourselves and those we love. For readers of When Time Stopped by Ariana Neumann, I Want You to Know We’re Still Here by Esther Safran Foer, and House of Glass by Hadley Freeman.
In 1942, in Nazi-occupied Poland, a Jewish child was smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto in a backpack. That child was Karen Kirsten’s mother, but she knew nothing about her own turbulent beginnings until one day she received an envelope from Canada—a letter and photographs sent by her biological father. Even still, she kept this knowledge from her own daughter for many years.
It wasn’t until Karen discovered the grandparents she loved dearly were in fact not her biological grandparents that she set out to unearth her family’s hidden history. She sought to uncover decades of secrets, both to understand for herself and to help heal her mother’s pain.
Piecing together her biological grandparents’ story—from the glittering days of their pre-war courtship to the little-known Radom Prison, where her grandfather was the only Jewish survivor out of 500 resistance members tortured, and through all the years that followed—Karen finds answers, yet not easy ones. Above all, in a journey that included countless brushes with death, precarious hiding places, false papers, and the involvement of no less than a bribed SS officer, Karen must reconcile the complicated, multi-faceted truth behind human behavior and the labels by which we identify each other.
Named for Karen’s biological grandmother, Irena’s Gift weaves together a mystery, history, and memoir to tell a story of sacrifice, impossible choices, impossible odds, and the way trauma reverberates throughout generations. Yet it is also a story of resilience and bravery, revealing how love and hope, too, can not only prevail through the worst imaginable circumstances, but resonate through time.
secrets, survivors, Auschwitz, Holocaust, Hitler, war, Warsaw ghettos, long-buried truths, Nuremberg trials, intergenerational trauma, trauma, Nazis, hidden past, Jewish, Australia, Dachau trials, Jewish ghettos, World War 2, World War II, history, memoir, Poland, Radom Prison, children of survivors, concentration camps, military history, The Ghost Tattoo, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, European history, forgiveness, SS officer, Polish