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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Smoke and Ashes: The Story of the Holocaust by Barbara Rogasky

I recently picked up "Smoke and Ashes: The Story of the Holocaust" by Barbara Rogasky from my school library. We'd been studying about WWII in History and I picked up the book for further information. I'm so glad I did, as I found out so many things I'd never have known otherwise, including various horrendously overlooked elements of the Holocaust.
 I read the second edition of this historical book, which had a revised format and more information. What struck me most about this was the dedication at the beginning, to Rogasky's fifty family members who'd been killed during the Holocaust in the U.S.S.R.

Rogasky includes pictures and letters in her work. They are quite faded and often hard to decipher, as she explains, they are often copies of copies of images, as the original ones have been buried away somewhere. These really add a sense of reality and evoke a series of realizations from the readers that Rogasky is not telling of a historical fiction, but a terrible genocide.
 She includes chapters on everything from the formation of the "Final Solution" to the Ghettos, to the involvement (or the lack of) of the Allied Forces in the assistance of Jews. She begins however, with a brief history of Antisemitism.
 She describes the Gestapo, and the eager participation of German citizens in the persecution of Jews, without hesitating to include a long chapter describing the hundreds of resistors who did their best to help as many Jews as they could.
 The numerous pages explaining the concentration and extermination camps featured not only pictures, but also quotes from the inmates, and also from some of the SS Officers. Rogasky provides an answer for almost everything including what the job of an SS Officer was, and how they ranked in the hierarchy of Hitler's German Forces.
 Towards the end of the book, Rogasky describes Neo-Nazism, that is surprisingly evident in society today. She also targets revisionists, a set of historians who believe that the Holocaust did not and could not have happened. She rebutts against their claims with hard facts and truth, and convinces the reader, once and for all that the Holocaust is not something that we should hide from, nor is it something we should embrace.

Overall the book is not one to be missed if you have an interest in history, or if you have ever wondered how much of a historical fiction is true. You should try reading at least a few chapters if you wanted to know more about the past or about your country's involvement in this horrific period of history.

You should read this book, if not for anything else than to remind yourself that something this horrible happened, and to vow that you will try your best to avoid its reappearance in our world. 


  1. I don't know if I've seen this book before, but it sounds like something I should try to get a hold of to put in the school library where I work for my own students. Great review, thanks for sharing this with me!

    1. I never knew you were a librarian! I definitely think you should issue this book- specially if you're a middle/high school librarian!

  2. this is very dear topic to me because I'm convinced we, humankind, will repeat the same errors if we allow ourselves to forget. Thank you for this great review. I'm definitely reading this book!


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