It’s hard to know how to review a book as harrowing as this. Shorter than your average history book and constructed in an intentionally straightforward manner, in order to appeal to young adults, Surviving the Angel of Death is nonetheless tough-going. I read it in a single sitting simply because I knew if I put it down I’d never pluck up the courage to pick it up again.
Eva Mozes Kor and her twin sister, 10 at the time they entered Auschwitz, were given ‘special treatment’ in the concentration camp – although the privilege of being allowed to wear their own clothing was offset by the medical experiments to which they were subjected by Josef Mengele. Eva was injected with various diseases, with the intent that when she died, her sister would also be killed, in order to perform autopsies to compare and contrast the state of their internal organs. The fact that the two of them survived the camp is a true testament to Eva’s force of will.
Perhaps the book’s most terrifying description is of a moment frequently glossed over by Holocaust literature: the day the Nazi guards fled the camp. The ensuing chaos, far from a triumphant moment of freedom, was characterised by hysteria among the prisoners, mass shootings (as the Nazis returned, sporadically, to ‘get rid of the evidence’) and starving people dying tragically from sudden over-eating.