I’ve read dozens of Holocaust memoirs. All were horrible, yet strangely empowering with their tales of survival. They typically end at the completion of the war. Maybe you get a chapter of epilogue, but that’s the end of the story.
Broken Birds is a Holocaust story, but that’s only a part of it. Katzir tells the war stories of both her parents — their sufferings and the circumstances that allowed them to survive. Two unique stories, one within the camps and one without. And that’s only the beginning. We learn of their early marriage and the childhood and life of our author. While she recounts her family’s struggles, she sees within their failings the effect that the horrors of the Holocaust had on future generations.
I’m torn over this book. Katzir’s parents’ stories are intriguing, and it’s clear that she truly loves them and honors their past. She’s willing to forgive them for their mistakes and places much of the blame (rightfully or not) on their tragic pasts. Her mother, especially, as difficult as she is to deal with, is portrayed with respect, for the most part.
However, the bulk of the later part of the book is more of a hashing out of all the problems amongst her and her siblings. I made my way through selfish legal battles and was depressed by their lack of cohesion. I recognize that this is Katzir illustrating how the survival instincts, fear and loneliness of Holocaust survivors can harm their children, but the long list of wrongdoings by everyone sometimes gave me the feeling that the text itself was payback for past wrongs. For me, all the bitterness played my emotions differently than other memoirs of the era.
Despite that, I give kudos to Katzir for her raw honesty about many frustrating situations. She’s created a story that does get into the heart of family battles that may really ring true for many other families who have had a parent or two who have survived horrible situations. If you are already interested in Holocaust memoirs, this definitely adds a different sort of history to the genre.
Rated: Moderate, for three uses of strong language and multiple uses of other milder language