“No one heard us. They decided not to, to turn their heads away.
It was too much to bear. Too much to know. Too hard to swallow.
But now that the world knows, now that the world has heard, it all seems so simple, so easy to defray.
I screamed and no one heard.
Next time, will you be listening?”
Aliz and her twin sister, Hajna, are enjoying their playful, carefree and comfortable life with their parents in Szeged, Hungary just before the Nazis invade. Seemingly overnight, their lives change drastically as they are transported to the ghetto on the outskirts of the city and then to Auschwitz to be used in Mengele’s deadly twin experiments. After several months of brutal torture, Aliz is liberated to find that she is the only survivor in her family.
At not even 11 years old, Aliz must make the journey to San Francisco alone, an entire world away from everything she’s known, in order to live with her only known relatives whom she has never met– a depressed aunt and teenage cousin who is more than ready to escape her mother’s melancholy.
As you can imagine any book that deals with such an emotive and harrowing subject isn’t going to be an easy read, and it would be an injustice to sugarcoat the atrocities of Auschwitz. I visited Bergen Belsen many years ago and the images I saw there will haunt me forever. Told through the eyes of both Aliz and her cousin Isabelle, Unravelled tells a powerful story of survival, hope, and family, as well as the atrocities of genocide, It is a truly moving piece of historical fiction, based heavily on historical facts.
Unravelled is split into three parts the first part follows Aliz and her family as they are transported to Auschwitz, torn from her family, Aliz and her twin sister soon become part of Mengeld’s deadly experiments. In this part of the book the author writes hauntingly descriptive scenes that made my blood run cold, as I knew what I was reading wasn’t a work of fiction. I found this part of the book to be heart-rending, Auschwitz was hell on earth there is no doubt about it, imagine constantly living in fear, surrounded by death and having those closes to you taken away never to be seen again, it certainly made for a harrowing and emotional read.
Their suitcases,coats,dolls,canes, shoes, gloves,hats and sweaters strewn behind them like unwanted trash. Still summer winds blew life into the clothing and made them dance like ghosts.
The second part of Unravelled follows Aliz after she has been liberated, with no immediate family left she is sent to live in America with her aunt and cousin. Traumatised by the events of Auschwitz, Aliz struggles to lead a normal life. My heart broke for Aliz, knowing this actually happened to thousands of children made for a traumatic read. Such children did not get the support they so deserved, they weren’t encouraged to talk about their time in Auschwitz, and I couldn’t help but wonder how such children found the strength to cope with their harrowing memories.
It was as if America wanted to shut its ears, pretend that Hitler and Auschwitz had never happened
The third part offers some hope, it does not end on a happy note, but it shows Aliz taking tentative steps towards the future. I think this was a fitting end to a very traumatic story, and I feel the author showed great sensitivity to the plight of survivors and didn’t dress it up with “a happy ever after ending”, which wouldn’t have been at all credible with this type of story. The story was written in a very simple and direct style, but the author managed to portray the atrocities of Auschwitz in a such away it felt like I was reading a biography. I only had one small criticism, the last half of the book felt very rushed. I would have liked to have read more about Aliz “after Auschwitz, but that is my only negative. This book pulled at my heartstrings and left me an emotional wreck, but I’m so glad I read it.
Historical Note from Unravelled
It is estimated that 3000 twin children were experimented on in Auschwitz, or 1,500 pair of twins. Around 200 such children were found Alive in Auschwitz on liberation.
Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: Key Imprints/Scanlon Media; 1 edition (20 Jan. 2014)