I have always had an interest in reading about the Holocaust. I guess it all started with Ann Frank when I was younger. Combining this interest with my love of biographies, and I knew I just had to read Christian by Disguise – A Tale of Survival by Erna Kamerman Perry.
Christian by Disguise – Book Review
About the author:
A retired professor of Romance languages, Erna Kamerman Perry, 78, started writing her memoirs in 2013. Born in Poland, she came to the United States via Italy in 1951, and settled in Detroit, Mich., where she attended and graduated high school. She received a scholarship to Wayne State University, where she majored in Romance languages, ultimately receiving both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Gifted with languages, Mrs. Perry speaks Polish, English, Italian, Spanish, German and a little Russian. She taught Spanish and Italian part-time while her two children were growing up and began writing textbooks with her husband, John, in 1972, which she continues to do. Their Contemporary Society text book is in its 14th edition. She and her husband currently reside in Delray Beach, Fla.
Erna Kamerman was just three years old in 1939. That was the year war broke out and came crashing through the door of her native Poland. Life was never the same again for young Erna and her family. Despite being so young at the time, she vividly recalls her experiences of moving to a Jewish ghetto, hiding from the Nazis and escaping with her mother through the night to live another day.
She now shares her early memories of being a Jewish child in war-torn Europe in her new book, Christian by Disguise – A Tale of Survival.
“Life kept me busy and I buried the memory of that time fairly deep,” said Erna Kamerman Perry, 78, from her home in Delray Beach, Fla. “But years have passed and those who have experienced the Holocaust are disappearing. Death is no longer something far on the horizon but a frequent visitor to many around me. And so, it seems that I must take the chance of telling my story, a story that was a part of the horror my people experienced,” she added.
Her parents had young Erna learn Christian prayers while in hiding. Because of these memorized prayers, she managed to lie and convince soldiers in a train station that she was a Polish Christian girl by reciting them. Erna and her mother were able to escape Poland and go on to live in a rectory and convent, where her mother worked as a slave laborer. They remained there, disguised as Christians, through the rest of the war.
Christian by Disguise relates her harrowing ordeals of suffering hunger, living with fear and losing most of her family. It’s a true tale of survival, overcoming adversity and ultimate resilience. While numerous books exist about the Holocaust, there is nothing quite like Christian by Disguise. More than 70 years have passed since that formative event in the train station, yet Erna’s memories about her early experiences are just as sharp and vivid as if they happened recently.
According to Erna, who signed copies of her book at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for readers in August, “I have no illusions that another thread in the weave of the narratives about the Holocaust will make any difference: The deniers of it will keep denying, the haters will keep hating, genocides will keep occurring. I only want my children, my (few) relatives, my friends, and those readers interested in the historical horrors of the 20th century to know that once there was a little girl who, through no fault of her own, had to lie and pretend so she could live to see another day.”
While reading Christian by Disguise, you will get a glimpse of what it was like to be a young Jewish girl during the Holocaust. There are many, many sad parts to her story, but the author also shares a few of the good times during, and after WWII. At only 122 pages, Christian by Disguise is a short, powerful book.
I, for one, am glad that Erna Kamerman Perry decided to write her story of survival. I wish that more of the Holocaust survivors had written their stories. For it is something that we should never forget. Something we need to make sure is never repeated again.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book for review purposes. I received no other compensation. I was not required to write a positive review. My opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”