22 May Thomas Buergenthal: A Lucky Child
Judge Thomas Buergenthal has recently published a memoir of his life as a child surviving Auschwitz. The book was originally published in German (where it was a bestseller) and is now out in English. The book, A Lucky Child, is absolutely wonderful and inspiring. He describes in wonderful detail his slow, painful descent into the hell of Auschwitz and how he somehow managed to survive. He then describes life after Auschwitz–as a boy soldier who helped liberate Berlin, as a German schoolboy, and then as a young man in the United States. The book does a wonderful job connecting his life as a Holocaust victim and his subsequent career as a human rights advocate, scholar and judge.
Although set in the context of Auschwitz, it is a great story of family, love, hope, and survival. He doesn’t provide any answers to the problem of evil, or why some lose their humanity and others don’t. Perhaps there are no answers to such questions. Evil lurks within all of us, and so does the possibility of goodness. If he can survive and flourish after Auschwitz, then each of us can be inspired to live a life of purpose, full of meaning and joy. Buergenthal calls us to the better angels of our nature.
There are so many rare and amazing stories in this book, and one post cannot do it justice. So if you want to learn more about the book, this weekend C-SPAN will televise a book discussion with Judge Buergenthal airing this Saturday at 1:00 p.m. and this Sunday at 12:00. (See details here). I happened to be in the audience the day it was taped and I highly recommend it.
Having worked for and with Judge Buergenthal in Zurich, Switzerland almost ten years ago, I can say without equivocation that his most endearing and inspiring quality is his remarkable unbroken spirit. His life as a boy explains the man that he has become, a man full of empathy, generosity and forgiveness.
Record and watch the program on C-SPAN. And then go buy the book.