THE JEWISH TRIBUNE

Toronto, Ontario

June 24, 1999

 

THE LIGHT AFTER THE DARK

Reviewed by Leslie Young

 

“I was a story teller, not a story writer,” explains Alvin Abram the author of The Light After The Dark, but after being approached by the children of several Holocaust survivors to record their parents’ stories, Mr. Abram had a book on his hands. After four years of writing researching and verifying information, The Light After the Dark gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of seven astonishing men and women who overcame insurmountable odds to forge thriving and meaningful lives in Canada.

            In each of the six stories, the subject took an active role to ensure his or her survival. During the Holocaust in which six million Jews perished, it is easy to lose sight of the individual and their actions. Abram states that Jews “weren’t the sheep that history would lead us to believe,” and said, “There is no sense of pride in being portrayed as a victim.” It is this statement that provides the running theme throughout the book. Abram wanted to write a book that, when read by a younger generation, would instill a sense of pride and lead them to the realization that “a survivor in surviving was a hero”.

            One hero is Zalman Katz who at the age of sixteen, after the massacre of his town, joined a partisan group with his surviving brother Moishe. Together, they did what they could to try and hinder the Nazi movement, including damaging bridges, railways, trucks and telegraph lines. However, things changed when his brother was killed after being betrayed by a member of a family they trusted. Zalman’s new mission was to revenge his brother’s murder, and so he immersed himself in the life of a partisan. He earned a reputation as a fierce fighter and was often chosen for the more dangerous assignments. He destroyed and burned buildings, derailed trains and had a price on his head for killing two of the people that had been responsible for his brother’s murder. By the end of the war, Katz, who had joined the Russian Army, was left with the painful memories of all he had endured and with the knowledge that one of his brothers’ murderers was still alive. He was forced to come to terms with what he had lost and was able to create a life for himself that included a wife and a son. In a strange twist of fate his brother’s murderer was still alive. He was forced to come to terms with what he had lost and was able to create a life for himself that included a wife and a son. In a strange twist of fate his brother’s murderer would take his own life for fear of being found by Zalman Katz.

            Another is Michael Kutz, who Abram met in Israel when Kutz, at the age of fifty-nine celebrated the bar mitzvah he was denied during the war. Abram sought him out after the celebration, introduced himself and said: “I just saw the ending of a story. You gotta tell me the beginning”. By the age of thirteen, with his family gone, Kutz had joined a partisan group and was planting explosives in Nazi buildings and doing anything he could to both try and stop the Nazis and stay alive. He needed to survive in order to keep their traditions alive. In his survival, Michael Kutz kept his promise. This book shows us that the survivors are but merely victims of their time, but heroes in their response to the situation, and that the act of surviving is enough to generate the feeling that these are heroes worthy of recognition. Michael Kutz reminds us that “to forget and forgive is not an answer – remembering is.”

This is what The Light After the Dark helps us to do.