Motherland: Part One, Through Hunger and War, Natan Gimelfarb

Motherland: Part One, Through Hunger and War, Natan Gimelfarb

This is the first part of a two-part autobiography written by Natan Gimelfarb, a Ukrainian Jew who lived through the great famines of the 1930s, was force to flee from him home after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, served in the Red Army before suffering a serious wound. This volume finishes with his life as a student in the last years of war and the first years of peace.

The main focus of the book is on Jewish life under Stalin. There is a fascinating conflict between the propaganda of the Communist state, with its emphasis on fairness and progress and the reality of life, especially during the great famines of the 1930s. It also becomes clear that many people in positions of authority shared the more positive view (this is seen most clearly within the education system).

From our point of view the section on the Second World War, which suddenly intruded on the author's life when the Germans crossed the Soviet border. His home town was directly in their line of advance, and of his Jewish friends and neighbours only the handful who managed to escape east survived.

The author escaped by attaching himself to the Red Army, and then being accepted as a volunteer. We thus get an inside view of the long retreat east, training once the retreat was over and an account of life at the front before he was badly wounded and invalided out. The author later emigrated to the States, where this book was written. As a result the book combines a similar literary tone to other Soviet autobiographies I have read, with a wider perspective on events.

Author: Natan Gimelfarb
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 306
Publisher: 2010 (English edition)


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