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In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer [Hardcover]

By Irene Opdyke (Author)
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Item description for In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Opdyke...

Outline ReviewWhen World War II began, Irene Gutowna was a 17-year-old Polish nursing student. Six years later, she writes in this inspiring memoir, "I felt a million years old." In the intervening time she was separated from her family, raped by Russian soldiers, and forced to work in a hotel serving German officers. Sickened by the suffering inflicted on the local Jews, Irene began leaving food under the walls of the ghetto. Soon she was scheming to protect the Jewish workers she supervised at the hotel, and then hiding them in the lavish villa where she served as housekeeper to a German major. When he discovered them in the house, Gutowna became his mistress to protect her friends--later escaping him to join the Polish partisans during the Germans' retreat. The author presents her extraordinary heroism as the inevitable result of small steps taken over time, but her readers will not agree as they consume this thrilling adventure story, which also happens to be a drama of moral choice and courage. Although adults will find Irene's tale moving, it is appropriately published as a young adult book. Her experiences while still in her teens remind adolescents everywhere that their actions count, that the power to make a difference is in their hands. --Wendy Smith

Product Description
"You must understand that I did not become a resistance fighter, a smuggler of Jews, a defier of the SS and the Nazis all at once. One's first steps are always small: I had begun by hiding food under a fence."

Through this intimate and compelling memoir, we are witness to the growth of a hero. Irene Gut was just a girl when the war began: seventeen, a Polish patriot, a student nurse, a good Catholic girl. As the war progressed, the soldiers of two countries stripped her of all she loved --- her family, her home, her innocence --- but the degradations only strengthened her will.

She began to fight back. Irene was forced to work for the German Army, but her blond hair, her blue eyes, and her youth bought her the relatively safe job of waitress in an officers' dining room. She would use this Aryan mask as both a shield and a sword: She picked up snatches of conversation along with the Nazis' dirty dishes and passed the information to Jews in the ghetto. She raided the German Warenhaus for food and blankets. She smuggled people from the work camp into the forest. And, when she was made the housekeeper of a Nazi major, she successfully hid twelve Jews in the basement of his home until the Germans' defeat.

This young woman was determined to deliver her friends from evil. It was as simple and as impossible as that.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.59" Width: 5.84" Height: 1.06"
Weight:   1 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Aug 31, 1999
Publisher   Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN  0679891811  
ISBN13  9780679891819  
UPC  090129018000  

Availability  0 units.

More About Irene Opdyke

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Ethnic & National > Jewish
2Books > Subjects > Children > History & Historical Fiction > Europe
3Books > Subjects > Children > History & Historical Fiction > General
4Books > Subjects > Children > History & Historical Fiction > Holocaust
5Books > Subjects > Children > People & Places > Biographies > Historical
6Books > Subjects > History > Military > World War II > General
7Books > Subjects > History > Military > World War II
8Books > Subjects > Teens > Authors, A-Z > ( A ) > Armstrong, Jennifer

Reviews - What do customers think about In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer?

Loved it so much got the book and the audio book.  Jun 2, 2008
First I listened to the book on audio. I liked it so much I got the book a year later andit it. Amazing story of survival. Hiding right in a Nazi officers home. WOW. What courage.

A must read for those who what to never forget.

Uplifting to what we can and will do for others when we have to.
Much better than "On Hitler's Mountain"  Apr 8, 2008
Whereas the novel I mentioned in my title left me feeling cold (not to mention the author was a small child when she writes about her experiences, which must be grainy), this powerful account is simply written, but also written well. It's deliciously descriptive and emotional. I felt like I did walk in Irene's shoes, for I saw everything through her eyes (true, it was written in first-person point-of-view), instead of like watching a movie.

By the way, I think this would make a great film, though I am not sure if there is an actress beautiful enough to play Irene (who really should be played by a young, unknown girl, age appropriate, not a trashy pop starlet, who would degrade).

Through it all (being raped by two Russian soldiers and left for dead, becoming a German officer's mistress to protect her Jewish friends, etc.), Irene maintains an innocence that is refreshing, and when she loses her first truelove before they have a chance to marry, it broke my heart.

I will say I have an even dimmer view of the Catholic Church than I did before (not Catholics in general, just some of the politics of the religion), because when Irene goes to a priest to confess being a German's lover to save the lives of her friends, he says, "They are Jews", and I could actually hear the inflection in his voice that said, "They're just Jews", like they weren't worth saving. This un-Christlike priest refuses to give her absolution, which, from a doctrinal standpoint I understand, but not from a spiritual standpoint. Yes, Irene was sinning, but she was not committing crimes against humanity, and I believe my God is a merciful and just God and that He understands for He can see Irene's soul.

This deeply religious, courageous woman has earned my respect and her chronicle is hardcover worthy.
A book for both Mothers and Teen Daughters  Mar 31, 2008
My 14-year-old daughter read this book and insisted that I read it. When I finally agreed, I could not put the book down. The story is so well told that you can can truly understand the experience of a 17-year-old girl in the midst of the horrible events. A compelling book that everyone should read and discuss.
inispirational person  Feb 2, 2008
I often think of this woman in my day to day life. She serves as a testament to all mankind that we must put others first and fight for the just cause. What she went through herself is quite harrowing. I am happy that she has been honored with a tree planted in her name at Yad Vashem in Israel. An easy read and a book that you cannot put down. She is truly inspirational.
Interesting right through the very end.  Aug 13, 2007
Unlike most characters featured in such books, Irene Opdyke had no vested interest in helping the Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland. She began her work in small, timid steps, gradually growing more bold and forceful as she matured. The story is told in an entirely credible and sympathetic way, without forcing young readers to wade though long narratives of graphic atrocities. I found the afterward to be the most moving and memorable part of the entire book.

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