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Publisher's Summary

"You might come back, because you're young, but I will not come back." (Marceline Loridan's father to her, 1944)

A runaway best seller in France, But You Did Not Come Back has already been the subject of a French media storm and hailed as an important new addition to the library of books dealing with the Holocaust. It is the profoundly moving and poetic memoir by Marceline Loridan-Ivens, who, at the age of 15, was arrested in occupied France along with her father. Later, in the camps, he managed to smuggle a note to her, a sign of life that made all the difference to Marceline - but he died in the Holocaust while Marceline survived.

In But You Did Not Come Back, Marceline writes back to her father, the man whose death overshadowed her whole life. Although her grief never diminished in its intensity, Marceline ultimately found her calling working as both an activist and a documentary filmmaker. But now, as France and Europe in general face growing anti-Semitism, Marceline feels pessimistic about the future. Her testimony is a memorial, a confrontation, and a deeply affecting personal story of a woman whose life was shattered and never totally rebuilt.

©2015 Éditions Grasset & Fasquelle. Translation copyright 2016 by Sandra Smith. First published in French as Et tu n'es pas revenu by Éditions Grasset & Fasquelle. Recorded by arrangement with Grove Atlantic, Inc. (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

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A Haunting, Extraordinary Memoir


“I was quite a cheerful person, you know, in spite of what happened to us”, that is how Marceline Loridan-Ivens introduces herself to us, but I should say that this is not one of those uplifting, heartwarming, feel good memoirs; it’s not optimistic, spiritually elevating or full of assurances and hope for the future of the human race.

Loridan-Ivens's prose is strikingly factual and unsentimental. I believe that's because she didn't have to amplify her narrative, the reality is that the horrific account of what happened to her and her family speaks by itself.

In March 1944, Marceline Loridan-Ivens and her family were living a quiet but relative sheltered life in Nazi-occupied France. All of this changed when she and her father, Solomon Rozenberg, were captured and sent to Drancy, a location that served as a layover to the extermination camps located in Poland.

Immediately after their arrival the two of them got separated, Solomon was left in Auschwitz while Marceline was sent to Birkenau, a women’s concentration camp. The two places were separated by a mere three kilometers. Marceline was only 16 years old.

One day Marceline and Solomon catch a glimpse of each other. Marceline is euphoric when she sees him but her happiness is short-lived when soldiers savagely beat her into unconsciousness. A few weeks later, Solomon convinces a fellow prisoner to smuggle an onion, a tomato and a short letter for her, all things that were considered unimaginable luxuries in the camp.

Marceline has to make the note disappear so that the camp officers won’t find it on her, the narrative of this memoir is framed around her inability to recall the message her father wrote.

But You Did Not Come Back is Marceline's response to that note, in it she painfully contemplates what Solomon might have written to her and the precious memories she lost.

Later on, Marceline was sent to Bergen-Belsen, the concentration camp where Anne Frank died, and then to a factory where junker planes were manufactured. She was finally liberated in the early summer of 1945. She never heard from his father again.

This book is as much the story of Marceline's horrific experiences at Birkenau, as it is about the challenges she faced trying to readjust to an ordinary life after her return to France.

Last year marked the 70 year anniversary since the Soviets liberated the Birkenau-Auschwitz concentration camps in Poland, but reading Loridan-Ivens account you feel as if that event only took place a little while ago. But You Did Not Come Back: A Memoir is that vivid and emotionally raw.

With its unsparing, bleak prose, this memoir will break your heart; so why should you even consider listening to it? I would say if for nothing else, because it’s gorgeously written, brutally honest and deeply touching.

But there is also this:

6,000,000 Jews died in the Holocaust. 76,500 French Jews were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. 2,500 came back. 160 of them are still living. Marceline is just one of them. We are running out of survivors. Her story needs to be heard because sadly, it's remains very much relevant today.

Karen Cass' narration was absolutely flawless.

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  • 09-25-16

A book for everyone

This book is a must-read. It gets at the very core of what it is to be human and what it is to suffer, to feel pain like most of us have never known. It's imperative that we don't forget, that we immerse ourselves regularly in these types of person-told histories so that we can continue, as conscious individuals, to move forward toward humanity. The author's words are poignant such as only someone who experi

1 person found this helpful