• Lisa Hodorovych

Abe vs. Adolf Shows the True View of the Holocaust

As I planned out this review, my goals were to talk about how this book was written, what I liked about it, what I didn’t like about it, etc. But as I began writing Abe’s story, I couldn’t help but dive deeper into it. It is such a profound story that it just needs to be told over and over again, so I decided to make that my “centerpiece” for the review instead of the usual “descriptions used throughout the book” or something of that nature. However, you still need to pick up this book so you can read it and see it for yourself. Seriously, to truly read Abe’s stories and to see the pictures for yourself will be a totally different experience then me telling you about it. So I hope enjoy this “review” and please pick up a copy of Abe -vs- Adolf: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Abe Peck by Maya Ross.

I also want to warn you that some of the quotes from the book may be graphic or may make you feel uncomfortable, sick, or maybe even make you cry. Grab your Kleenex!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a morbid fascination with the Holocaust. I know, “fascination” is truly the wrong word to use when describing this horrendous event in world history, but every time it was discussed in school, let’s just say I paid a little bit more attention. When I was in middle school (eighth grade to be exact), I got a chance to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and it was such a traumatic but rewarding experience. It opened my eyes, reminding me that something like this should never happen again. Now, a full twenty years later, I’m being reminded again thanks to Maya Ross’s incredible biography Abe -vs- Adolf: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Abe Peck.

I’m sure throughout your school career, you were asked to read books like The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank or Number the Stars by Lois Lowry in a Language Arts/Reading class as you prepared to learn about the Holocaust in your History class. I do remember reading Number the Stars in school, but, to me, this was a walk in the park compared to Abe -vs-Adolf. I think the differences between the two are: (one) Number the Stars is a historical fiction novel while Abe -vs- Adolf is a biography and (two) this book contains pictures so graphic and so horrifying, yet so beautiful and so uplifting that they make Abe’s story more real.

I have to say, I think that’s what drew me into this book, other than Abe’s story and Maya’s writing; the photos made it more realistic. They sent shivers up and down my spine, they made me jump for joy, but they also helped me see everything from Abe’s perspective.

Who is Abe Peck?

Abe was born Abraham Pik on November 25, 1924, in Szadek, Poland. Being born Jewish and living in a predominantly Polish community, he was already at a disadvantage. He was picked on every day and didn’t really have too many friends. According to what Ross wrote, “It was not easy for Jewish children to attend public school in Poland when Abe was a boy. Antisemitism was so pervasive during Abe’s school-aged years that Jewish kids were regularly picked on and tormented. There were no rules or regulations protecting students against bullying like those we have in America today.”

However, things were about to get worse for Abe. In September of 1939 – when he was only fourteen years old – the Germans invaded his hometown of Szadek. Abe and his family tried running to Warsaw, but the Russians were coming in as well, so they returned home. What’s absolutely sickening is as they did, they noticed their house was ransacked by their own neighbors! Abe stated, “We would see our neighbors with our things, but there was nothing we could do about it. We were afraid they’d tell the Germans about us.”

How disgusting is that?

Szadek Ghetto

Then, about nine months later, the Szadek ghetto was established. Any Jewish families in Szadek were forced into an area that was “approximately 4,000 square meters.” It was Abe, his sister, his mother, and his father along with five other families that were “crammed into a small single-family home.” And that was only one of however many houses in that 4,000 square meters!

However, from there, things did not get any better for Abe and his family. Instead, things got much, much worse! In 1941, Abe and his father were taken from the Szadek ghetto to their first (of many) working/concentration camps. His mother and sister stayed behind, but he would learn that they were killed during the liquidation of the Szadek ghetto. Back in August of 1942, the Nazis executed all of the Jewish people who remained in the Szadek ghetto, and then burned it down to make sure they got any who may be hiding. According to this biography, Abe wasn’t fully aware of this until decades after the war.

Abe Loses His Father

Then, while Abe and his father were at a working camp in Rawicz, Poland, Abe’s father contracted typhoid and passed in 1942. Abe was only seventeen years old. Unfortunately, Abe had it as well, but he was able to make a “recovery”. The reason I put recovery in quotations is because even though he felt better, he was still put to work, he still lived in horrible conditions, he wasn’t fed properly…pretty much, he may not have had typhoid anymore, but he was still fighting for his life.


From there, Abe went from one concentration or working camp to another. He was in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Dachau as well as so many others. But it wasn’t until he was in the Allach concentration camp in April of 1945 – when he was twenty years old – that he finally saw freedom. That’s when American troops bombarded the camp and liberated all of the Jewish people within it. According to the book, “A wide, heartwarming smile spreads across Abe’s face as he remembers this momentous occasion. ‘I will never forget the American soldiers – our liberators. The Americans were wonderful in all respects.’”

After that, unfortunately things didn’t get 100% easier for Abe, but they did get better. He got married, his wife gave birth to his first (and only) son, he left Poland and moved to America. He also started making money, he found a beautiful home to live in (in my home state of New Jersey), and he finally started to enjoy the life he was robbed of.

Making His Way Back Home

It took him some time (sixty-six years to be exact), but Abe did make his way back home to Szadek, Poland. He attended the rededication of the Szadek Cemetery in 2005 and visited Chelmno, which is where there’s a mass burial of over 365,000 Jewish people, including Abe’s mother and sister. According to the book, it was where Nazis would dump the bodies of those they murdered.

This book was published in 2015. After it was, Abe went to different schools and other places to tell his story and make sure people understood that something like this should never happen again. But, unfortunately, in 2016, Abe passed at 91-years-old.

That’s Abe’s story! How incredible is that?!

What I Loved About Abe vs. Adolf

I will say, though, there were a couple of things I loved about Abe -vs- Adolf and a couple of things that I didn’t love. One thing I loved was, again, the pictures shared throughout this book. It just added such a sense of realism to his story. I mean seeing pictures of Abe as a young boy, pictures of his family, pictures of their living situation during the Holocaust, pictures of what the Nazis did to the Jewish people, pictures of their liberation, and then seeing pictures of Abe becoming a man, getting married, and a raising a family just made the story whole.

This History

What I also loved were the history lessons weaved in between Abe’s story. For example, being reminded why the Jews were attacked. “One of the ways Hitler built an enormous following was to pin the blame for Germany’s loss in World War I, and the resultant economic problems, on the Jews. … Hitler used the frightful social and economic conditions in Germany as a platform to blame the Jews even though Germany’s economic devastation was the product of its defeat in World War I, the resulting penalties, and the Great Depression.”

Or, learning more about the SS. “The SS (an abbreviation for Schutzstaffel, meaning ‘Protection Squadron’) was Hitler’s elite paramilitary force that personally served as his ruthless henchmen. SS men swore their eternal faith and absolute loyalty to their Fuhrer (meaning ‘leader,’ specifically Hitler) and were the formidable fighting force and military power of his Nazi regime. The SS, whose members believed there were racially superior, was responsible for the majority of war crimes committed under the Third Reich.”

There’s even a chapter that is a history lesson within a history lesson. As Ross explains, “Before continuing with Abe’s story, and in order for it to have the most meaning, it is important to understand the history of the Nazi persecution of the Jews that began in Germany in 1933, long before the start of World War II.”

What I Didn't Like About Abe vs. Adolf

However, there was one thing that I guess you can say “bothered” me while I was reading this book. It was the fact that Abe’s statements were being repeated by the author. Now, I know she did that (as she explains in the beginning of the book) because English is Abe’s second or third language, so she wanted to make sure what he was saying was clear. But at the same time she was also repeating what he was saying, so you literally got the same story twice. I guess you can say you truly can’t forget what he says as it becomes ingrained in your brain from the repetitiveness.

Morale...Never Give Up!

Oh, and by the way, here’s the morale of the story: “Keeping in mind that Abe was one of the first victims of Hitler’s reign of terror on Europe in WWII, starting with the Nazis’ lightning quick occupation of his hometown of Szadek in September, 1939, it is truly amazing that he made it through the ghetto and then five more years of captivity. By the time Abe ended up in Allach on April 12, 1945, he had survived forced labor and extended imprisonment in a total of nine different concentration and working camps. But Abe never gave up.

My Recommendation

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a history buff, especially if you’re interested in World War II, or for anyone who is like me and has a “fascination” about the Holocaust. However, make sure you have a strong heart, a strong stomach, and some Kleenex near you because it will break your heart, it will make your stomach turn, and it will make you cry. But this is something we all need to learn, so we never ever repeat this!

To learn more about this book, where you can purchase it, the author, etc., check out the book's website.

Policies and Disclosure

Please note that I am not getting paid to write this review. I am just a fan and fellow author helping out another great author. To learn more, please check out my Policy page. Also, I would love to hear what you think of this review and of the book, if you’ve read it. You can either comment below (please read my “Comments Policy” on the Policy page before doing so) or contact me.

Photo Credit

The photos featured in this post are my photos. The first is my copy of Abe -vs- Adolf: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Abe Peck by Maya Ross. The second is my “signature photo”, me with my copy of this incredible biography.