My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Starting off: Mischling is about twins in Auschwitz and is a work of fiction. I highly, highly recommend Eva Kor’s memoir “Surviving the Angel of Death,” for a true story of this experience. Eva is a true hero and survivor – and is even mentioned in this book. I recommend reading Eva’s book first, to provide context and understanding of Mischling.
Now, to Mischling itself.
This book is difficult because of its subject – Mengele’s experiments on humans at Auschwitz – but it is an important work because it shines a light on one of the lesser-known horrors of the Holocaust and the after effects that weigh heavy on survivors.
The book follows Polish twins Stasha and Pearl, who are placed in Mengele’s “zoo,” with the other assortment of individuals he deemed interesting: twins/triplets primarily, but also dwarves, people with albinism, anyone he deemed “special.” Stasha and Pearl become separated before the camp’s liberation and face two distinct paths afterward toward a new future, in a new Poland scarred by war.
This book was incredibly moving and depicted the struggles not only of surviving the camps but also surviving afterward. It’s something that we don’t really think about, but survivors weren’t just suddenly welcomed back with open arms and given their homes and valuables back; they faced violence, fear, and uncertainty, along with the after effects of their terrible ordeals. This book does a good job of depicting that. It also shows why it was so important for these survivors to get justice – even years after the fact. Too often, people today dismiss this need for healing, but when you see the devastation and impact of someone like Mengele or other guards, you can get a glimpse of why it is so important.
At times, the book was hard to follow. The line between reality and illusion is purposely blurred in the book, which is presented as a bit of a gruesome fairy tale, but that also makes it hard for the reader to follow at certain points.
Overall, a very good work which chronicles something we must never forget.