Like My Brother’s Voice, Because of Romek chronicles the events in the life of a young Holocaust survivor, with particular details focused on the survivor’s brother who was killed. David Faber’s brother, Romek (a nickname), was tortured and murdered while David watched. Romek was a Polish soldier and a prisoner or war. He was released from Buchenwald as a POW, but had to go back to the Jewish ghetto in the city of Tarnow with his family. He participated in the Polish Underground, was caught, and tortured for information before he was murdered.
Unlike other stories of Holocaust survivors that I’ve read, more than half of Because of Romek deals with the horrific treatment of David and his family before David is shipped to a concentration camp. The senseless, brutal, and seemingly arbitrary murder of Jews in Tarnow is astonishing, as is David’s ability to live.
What the reader comes away with is just how arbitrary survival was for victims of the Holocaust. Having someone who is shot fall on top of you, her dead body providing a shield; having a gas chamber be too full for you to be pushed in; being given the job of feeding the camp’s dogs and sneaking some of the dog food in order to survive. The list is endless, and the remarkable thing is how often David’s luck turned toward life rather than death. Eventually, that luck ran out for most Holocaust victims.
Of course, luck is a relative term here. All of David’s family is killed except a sister who was in England at the time. Most of the time, David wondered if it wouldn’t have been better to have died as well. In reading Because of Romek, I was again questioning how so many people could become so sadistic all at once. It’s very difficult to understand that there were innumerable Germans who were poking out eyes, burning people alive, gassing them, starving them, having dogs tear them apart, beating them with rubber hoses, hanging them up as examples, gunning them down in droves. How do so many people go completely insane at one time?
A while back I bought a book for the library entitled Hitler’s Willing Executioners, about the German people. I’ve added it to my reading list in the hope of understanding the answer to my question.