Dr. Jose­f’s Lit­tle Beauty by Zyta Rudz­ka

Dr. Jose­f’s Lit­tle Beauty by Zyta Rudz­ka

Translator: Anto­nia Lloyd-Jones

A Holocaust story as fascinating and compelling as it is terrifying and puzzling—a book about aging and war crimes, pain and pride.

In the middle of summer, omnipresent heat radiates as a group of elderly people are remembering their youth. The story focuses on two sisters, Leokadia and Helena, who live together in a retirement home not far from Warsaw. These are not ordinary stories they are sharing because both of them were imprisoned as children in Auschwitz during World War II. At the center is Helena, who at the age of 12 was saved from extermination by the notorious doctor Josef Mengele, the real-life Nazi officer and physician who was known as the “angel of death” for the experiments he conducted on prisoners, including twins and siblings.

This is a story both provocative and disturbing about the fear that lingers in victims. Was the sisters’ relationship with the executioner a desperate attempt to save their lives, or perhaps they harbor a hideous pride and sense of superiority over other prisoners? Rudzka’s extraordinary writing turns unsettling questions about memory and survival into art.

Year first published: 2024

Read a review on Jewish Book Council

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