I have chosen to write about a particular piece of literature, Of Human Agony, written by Irene and Carl Horowitz, which has had a profound impact on my life. Irene and Carl Horowitz are my great aunt and uncle on my mother's side. They are Holocaust survivors who came to the United States after World War II and are presently living in Brooklyn, New York. As the years passed, Irene and Carl felt compelled to record their war experiences for future generations. They decided to write a book.
Irene and Carl were Polish Jews when Hitler took control in 1939, and for the next several years they suffered the fate of so many of Hitler's victims. Overnight, they lost their homes, parents, friends, and almost their own lives. Until the war finally ended in 1945, their daily struggle was a desperate one of perseverance and endurance.
My great aunt was fortunate to spend the war years hiding in a well. Through winter and summer she remained concealed under leaves, only able to emerge after dark for food and water. The well soon became crowded with other Jews seeking an escape from Hitler's relentless onslaught. Finally on August 8, 1944 news arrived that the Russians had driven out the Germans. Irene was so flea and lice infested that she was half dead from anemia, but she was free at last.
In another part of Poland, Carl was searching for any opportunity to avoid his own doom. He was on a death march to Auschwitz, when an old woman selling apples appeared by the side of the road. He made a desperate leap for safety, trusting God in the guise of this woman who hid him and helped him find a route to freedom.
My grandparents are also characters in this horrific drama and their adventures no less harrowing. I have read many books in my life. Many describe acts of heroism or perhaps superhuman dedication to some cause, but none will hold the strength and courage for me that this book does. To meet my great aunt and uncle, or my grandmother and grandfather, one would never suspect the enormous obstacles they have overcome. Their survival and recovery will always and forever inspire me. My great aunt says they were just victims, but to me they are heroes. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.