Cover image for No time for patience : my road from Kaunas to Jerusalem : a memoir of a Holocaust survivor
No time for patience : my road from Kaunas to Jerusalem : a memoir of a Holocaust survivor
Birger, Zev, 1926-2011.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Keine Zeit für Geduld. English
First English-language edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Newmarket Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 150 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS135.L53 B573 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Until the age of fourteen, Zev Birgerenjoyed an idyllic childhood growing upin Kaunas, a flourishing city of mostlyprogressive Jews in Lithuania. His father held asecure job as an engineer, his mother was warmand loving, and he remembers many blissfulafternoons spent playing in the family's gardenafter Hebrew school.

Inspired by Zionist writers, young Zev and hisfriends firmly believed in the need to establish ahomeland for Jews. They could not have knownat the time how urgent that need would become intheir own lives. In 1940, the Russian army, then ayear later the German Nazi machine, invadedLithuania. The Birgers, along with all the otherJews in the area, were forced into the ghetto innearby Slobidka.

In simple but powerful prose, Zev describes hisfamily's efforts to survive in this ghetto,including being discovered by the SS in a cellarhideaway as gunfire sounded from theapproaching front. In 1944, the Birgers weredeported to the Dachau/Kaufering concentrationcamp, where Zev was forced into heavy labor inan underground arms factory. He was the onlymember of his family to survive.

In this brief but moving story, many ofthe atrocities of ghetto and camp life as they wereexperienced by a teenaged boy come to light: thelast moment he saw his mother's face as she wastaken away; the Children's Atkion in 1944, duringwhich more than two thousand children wererounded up and murdered; the rampant starvationand disease around him. But there were alsomoments of light: a compassionate doctor whospared the boy when he was sick, and numerousbrushes with death that left him, astonishingly,alive.

Zev credits his stubborn nature, sheer will, andgood luck for allowing him to outwit his oppressorson so many occasions and survive untilliberation in 1945. The physical and mentalstrength that saw him through the terrible yearswould serve him years later when he becameinvolved in the establishment of the State of Israeland a driving force behind the publishing andprinting industry in his young country. As a manof books, of language and literature, of cinemaand theater, Zev Birger has always supporteddiversity in Israel's cultural life. His gift ofbringing people together is a source of inspirationfor young and old everywhere. His story is atestament to hope, survival, and accomplishment.

Author Notes

Zev Birger was the director of the Jerusalem International Book Fair for over 15 years. Among the other positions he held in Israel are director of Light Industries, deputy director general of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, executive director of the Economic Council on Printing and Publishing, and head of the Israeli Film Center.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

These two Holocaust memoirs by highly successful Israeli men could not be more different in their views of human guilt and responsibility. Birger, director of the Jerusalem International Book Fair, remembers a totally idyllic childhood ("no quarrels or angry words, ever") in his privileged family in Kaunas, Lithuania, before the war. He was a teenager when the Nazis came. He endured the roundups, the ghetto, the transports, slave labor in Dachau. Of his family, only he survived. Yet, sustained by his Zionism, he never allowed himself to lose hope. "To survive was revenge." After the war, "home at last" in Israel, happily married with children and grandchildren, the idyllic life is restored. He wants to make a difference by building the State of Israel and telling his story. This is for readers who like the movie Life Is Beautiful. There's no such happy-ever-after comfort in Frister's stark, shocking narrative, which has already raised controversy since it was first published in Israel six years ago. Moving back and forth between the haunted present and the nightmarish past, Frister opens up secrets, then clamps down, then comes back to tell you more, as if he is trying to control what he cannot bear to remember. He was a teenager in Poland when the Nazis came. Betrayed by a Jewish informer, he was forced to lead the SS officers to where his parents were hiding, and for 50 years, he has lived with his guilt. Watching his father die in Auschwitz, the teenager can't stop obsessing about the bread hidden under his father's mattress. The book's title refers to an episode where he survives because another prisoner dies ("I didn't want to know who the man was. I was delighted to be alive"). A few people do help him, and he can't understand why: he wouldn't have lifted a finger to save others in that terror (though, earlier, he did rescue his grandparents, only to see them captured and killed within the year). Woven into his memories are his postwar experiences with a string of wives and mistresses: Is it hedonism, he wonders, or has he closed off all feeling? Halkin's translation is simple, quiet, direct. There's no rhetoric, no sensationalism, just the honest, horrifying account of a man trying to confront the victim, oppressor, and bystander in himself in the worst of times. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

For over 50 years, Birger, director of the Jerusalem International Book Fair, refused to share his Holocaust experience with anyone, including his three sons. Breaking a half-century of silence, he writes from the heart in a memoir that is all the more moving for its restrained style. With the German invasion of Lithuania in 1941, Birger and his older brother, Mordechai, were forcibly resettled in the Kovno ghetto. Still in his early teens, he founded an underground Zionist movement, which abetted guerrilla groups fighting the Nazis, saved and circulated Hebrew books and built underground bunkers where Jewish families could hide. In 1944, when the Nazis obliterated the Kovno ghetto, Birger, his brother and their father were captured and transported to Dachau; Birger's mother was sent to a different camp, and he never saw her again. His father perished in Dachau; Mordechai was transferred to another camp, escaped and was eventually caught and executed. By the time Birger was liberated by American soldiers in 1945, he was a typhus-stricken living skeleton. While serving as a translator in an American army unit, he joined a Jewish underground movement that helped displaced Jewish refugees emigrate illegally to British Palestine. He gives a stirring account of how, armed with false passports, he and his young bride, Trudi, sailed from Marseilles to Haifa, cramped on a converted yacht. Written with understated eloquence, his engrossing survivor's account is a story of remarkable courage told with great modesty. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Birger is best known for his work as the director of the Jerusalem Book Fair and his continuing commitment to the Israeli government since its inception in 1948. Until now, however, his life in occupied Lithuania and eventual deportation to Dachau have never been documented. Here he offers a testament to his will to survive, which has carried him through his life and his work. Writing in a simple, conversational style, Birger traces his experiences before the war, in the ghetto under Russian occupation, and, finally, in Dachau, and he shows how these experiences shaped his Zionist beliefs. Although Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz (1986) is more descriptive of daily life in the camps, Birger's memoir is an uplifting and worthwhile addition to the Holocaust genre. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.ÄMaria C. Bagshaw, Lake Erie Coll. Lib., Painesville, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Shimon Peres
Forewordp. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Author's Notep. x
1. Back to Dachaup. 1
2. Childhood: Years of Normalcyp. 5
3. Clouds of Oppressionp. 31
4. The German Invasion: Terror and Deathp. 39
5. The Camps: A Surreal Sufferingp. 67
6. Liberation: Years of Hopep. 91
7. Jerusalem: Finally Homep. 123
Epiloguep. 149