The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust

The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust
Publisher: Verso Books
Published Date : 08 July 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1781680889

Book Author(s):

Noam Chayut

View the book page:

The Girl Who Stole my Holocaust

Review by:

Jessica Purkiss

The Girl Who Stole my Holocaust is essentially about an epiphany. Noam Chayut's memoir charts his journey from a battle hardened soldier protecting an illegal occupation into a conscientious man who relentlessly confronts the injustice of that occupation. As the novel progresses through its 36 chapters the reader bears witness to the unravelling of Noam the Zionist, the enthusiastic IDF recruit and the military fundraiser.

The catalyst to this unravelling is a young girl who he encounters during a raid on a Palestinian village while he is still a soldier. The pure terror he sees in her face makes Noam realise that he is "playing the role of absolute evil in the play of her life". The absolute evil that has governed his life, in the shadow of which he has grown up under- the Holocaust, begins to disintegrate.

The association of the Holocaust and the occupation is a daring one. It is also insightful - it demonstrates the role the historical victimhood of the Jewish people plays in the Israeli psyche. While the book is about Noam's personal journey, it also tells us much about the hegemonic Israeli narrative.

Noam does not shy away from confronting his own racism and his actions as an Israeli soldier in a painfully honest manner. As he exposes the actions of others via testimonies collected as a member of Breaking the Silence, a group of ex-soldiers who seek to make people aware of the conduct of the Israeli military, he uncovers a sustained pattern of behaviour which makes up a whole system of abuse.

Noam ends his memoir with a letter to the young girl he encountered. It reads: "That's probably why you think that my horror is inferior to yours. But know that my idea of absolute evil stretches beyond anything your wildest imagination could conceive." The letter reads almost like a lecture to the wronged and an attempt to minimise the "absolute evil" she perceives. This cannot be Noam's intention, for the rest of the book is deeply self-aware. In this one paragraph he has marred the memoir. This should, however, not deter anyone from reading what is a startling and brutally honest account of one Israeli soldier's journey of questioning.

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