The Seamstress by Sara (Seren) Tuval Bernstein is a powerful memoir of Holocaust survival. I've read more than a few Survival Memoirs now, but this is the first one set in Romania. Seren's story differs from others I have read, in that she was able to escape the labor and death camps until 1944. She was indeed a survivor, long before the term was linked to those who were still alive at the time of liberation. Seren was a courageous and strong young woman, willing to leave home and family at an early age to pursue her education in Bucharest, attending a prestigious "gymnasium" (high school) on full scholarship. It was there that she first encountered racism and anti-Semitism, and soon thereafter left school to train as a seamstress. As she did not look Jewish, she was able to find employment and continue working in Bucharest and then Budapest. Eventually she returns to her home and family in the country to escape the growing Jewish persecution in the cities. Conditions worsen across Romania and Hungary and her family is divided by the war and the targetting of the Jewish population. I don't want to give away any more of the story. Trust me when I say it is compelling; I had a hard time putting it down. Seren is determined to survive the horrendous treatment by the Nazis, and endures unimaginable conditions, starvation and labour in Ravensbruck and eventually Dachau. She does survive though, through sheer determination and will to live, and goes on to marry and have a family, raising them in Montreal. Her story is gripping, and surprisingly, told without rancor or malice. Inspiring. Worth reading. I will not forget it any time soon.
She wrote her story late in life, and put it away after not having any luck with getting it published. Her daughter found the manuscript after her death and got it published several years later. What a shame Sara never saw her story in print.
For something that doesn't make any sound, a book speaks loud enough for its message to be etched in our hearts forever.