'The Holocaust is a drug and I have entered an opium den . . . I will discover that there is no end to the dealers I can find for just one more hit. My parents don't even realize that they are drug dealers. They could never imagine the kind of high H gives, making me want to dive into its endless depth. Sending me out to libraries to read any and every book that dealt with the Holocaust . . . the paper could all be chopped up into a fine powder, like ash, perhaps, laid down, row upon row, and snorted' Uniquely structured and uniquely told, I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors is a distillation of Bernice Eisenstein's memories of her 1950s childhood as the daughter of Yiddish-speaking parents whose experiences during the war, while rarely spoken of, were nonetheless a constant presence. Eisenstein's parents met in Auschwitz as the war was ending, and were married shortly after its liberation. This extraordinary memoir began to take root in her imagination several years ago, almost a decade after her father's death; she began with a series of drawings of her father, but realized that pictures alone could not convey what she had to say - 'And so I entered into a dance between pictures and the written word. I had two languages that worked together - to translate the layered meaning of my past, and that of my parents, on to the page.' In an amazing synthesis of prose and illustration, and with poignancy and searing honesty, Eisenstein explores with ineffable sadness and bittersweet humour her childhood growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust, while also addressing universal themes of memory, loss and recovery of the past. I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors is striking, original and unforgettable; it has the makings of a classic.
Bernice Eisenstein lives in Toronto, where she is a literary editor, reviewer and artist.