Book Review: Dignity to Survive: One Family’s Story of Faith in the Holocaust

Dignity to Survive: One Family’s Story of Faith in the Holocaust by Yona Emanuel.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach read Dignity to Survive on Tisha b’Av.

I have read through Dignity to Survive: One Family’s Story of Faith in the Holocaust and found it most fascinating. What stands out most about it is the determination and willingness to adhere to Torah and Mitzvos despite going through a living hell. 

The author records: “Despite all the difficulties we faced we found time for Torah study.” To find time during those horrific times for Torah study?? I mean now that’s impressive! Imagine! Going through a daily living hell and they find time to study Torah! Wow! What a mussar-self growth lesson! What an inspiration! What can we take away from this? So much! Every time one doesn’t feel like learning- take out this quote and remind yourself: They did it despite immense difficulty- we can do it too!

Hashgacha Pratis is in it too.

During the war Yona Emanuel z”l hid in the Rijkses house for some time. “A few days after I joined my family and Shalom, Mr Rijkse surprised me with the announcement that I would thenceforth be going to work every day in a tailers large sewing shop situated nearby. Yet I could not comprehend what had driven Mr. Rijkes to take such a risk. By leaving our hiding place on a daily basis I would be endangering not only myself but my whole family as well as the Rijkses… Once I began working at the shop I encountered another problem: How would I manage to cover my head and bentch after eating my lunch? The slightest deviation from the norms of non Jewish society would alert my co-workers to my true identity… [in the end] I found a out-of-the-way nook where I would be able to cover my head and recite the blessing without anyone seeing me”  

This is Hashgacha Pratis. 

How? Think about it. Why on earth would Mr. Rijkes do such a thing? What was he thinking? He wasn’t- Hashem was, that is Hashem put this idea into his mind. Why? A theory I thought of was the following: Hashem saw what Yona was going through. He understood his potential to achieve great things- which he did. Anyone in that situation would have reasoned: “My life is on the line! I have no choice but not to bentch, let alone think about what to do regarding having a head covering!” 

But no. Yona was strong spiritually-wise and determined to do the ratzon Hashem (will of God). Now that’s impressive. Hashem put into Mr. Rijkes mind to send him off to work all in order to bring out greatness, courage and strength in Yona! Now that’s Hashgacha! (Hashem being involved in ones life)

In short, I highly recommend this book to anyone who not only wants to have an engaging reading experience but to grow from it too.

Shmuel Brodersen is a talmid of Rav Binyomin Moskovitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Midrash Shmuel, Yerushalayim. Shmuel lives in Far Rockaway, New York.