‘Sam Pivnik’s life story is a classic testimony of Holocaust survival. In 1939, on his thirteenth birthday, Sam Pivnik’s life changed forever when the Nazis invaded Poland. He survived the two ghettoes set up in his home town of Bedzin and six months on Auschwitz’s notorious Rampkommando where prisoners were either taken away for entry to the camp or gassing. After this harrowing experience he was sent to work at the brutal Furstengrube mining camp. He could have died on the ‘Death March’ that took him west as the Third Reich collapsed and he was one of only a handful of people who swam to safety when the Royal Air Force sank the prison ship Cap Arcona, in 1945, mistakenly believing it to be carrying fleeing members of the SS. Now in his eighties, Sam Pivnik tells for the first time the story of his life, a true tale of survival against the most extraordinary odds.’
My sister purchased this as a gift for me when she visited Auschwitz back in August. It is a Holocaust account which I hadn’t heard of before; I do not remember seeing any information about it upon its release, and have come across no reviews on Goodreads or blogs regarding the thoughts of its previous readers. Regardless, as a History nerd, the premise appealed to me immediately, and I only waited for a couple of weeks before reading it.
Pivnik’s account is thorough, and all the more heartbreaking for it. Usually with collaborative memoirs like this, I do not usually find that the prose style is quite up to scratch, but here it was refined, and read beautifully. The prose style is fluid, and very much suits the piece. Survivor is brutal in places; I expected this to be the case, but some of Pivnik’s descriptions were far more chilling than I had anticipated.
Pivnik’s bravery is paramount to his account; he survived conditions which millions did not. The very fact that he writes so humbly of his own efforts is extraordinary. It was astounding to discover how much he went through, and yet still came out of the other side eager to live and contribute. Survivor is an incredible memoir, which is sure to appeal to those who enjoy reading historical accounts of the Second World War. There is so much to think about whilst reading, and so much to get choked up about too. Survivor is an incredibly important book, and one which I wish I had heard about sooner.