Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book 66: The Mascot Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood

The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood

Reading The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father’s Nazi Boyhood by Mark Kurzem was a great book since it offered a different look into the Holocaust then the typical Jewish survivor story who told their tale of the war only. It reminded me of something a former teacher said to me and was what I wanted a movie to be.

Alex Kurzem was extremely reluctant to share his past with his family. It wasn’t until his sons were grown until he started to share the mystery of the past that he pushed away for so long. He was a Jewish boy who escaped the massacre when they cleaned out his ghetto and was found by some soldiers of the Latvian 18th Police Battalion. He was actually turned into a little soldier and his past from everyone and became a mascot of the Battalion while he was at the tender age of 5.

This book was an interesting search into the past and really reminded me of a French movie I saw at the Philadelphia Film Festival a few years back that really disappointed me. But this actually showed me what I wanted in the movie: the frustration, the dead ends but at the same time the reward of understanding bits and pieces of the story. The movie I saw just let me feeling empty where the book was actually rewarding. Plus it’s amazing to me that he became a bit of a Latvian folk hero in the war due to his desire to be with the soldiers and be the Little Corporeal.

The book reminded me of words from Niels Bo Poulsen. He said how hard it is to try and talk about the war with many of those who collaborated during the war years. The former soldiers would lie to your face even with the evidence of photos in front of them sometimes because of guilt and sometimes out of the desire not to be judged/criminalized. For years Mark’s dad would show a photo or two from his suitcase that he carried with him although it wasn’t until Mark was all grown up before he figured out some of the photos of he saw where carefully covered up with fingers to hide the markings of a soldiers uniform. You can tell how in trying to figure out his father's past, Mark met up with problems of those not wanting to discuss aspects of the past especially when it meant talking about the actions that led to collobration with the Nazi and Latvian governments.

Overall I liked the book. I will have to say I liked the fact that this survivor story wasn’t the typical story of hiding/lying, getting caught, sent to a camp and found a way to survive. Instead a little boy was adopted by a set of soldiers and through a mix of fear and wanting to please, he became a little soldier as well. He survived the war while being shown the horrors of it at the front but at the same being protected from the atrocities all at the same time. He was always a little boy who couldn’t stop any of the actions of the soldiers and was even used by those around him.

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