Historical Novel Society review of Waltzing with the Enemy

by Ken Kreckel

This is another memoir from a survivor of the Holocaust, but one with some crucial differences. First off, it is written by both the survivor, who relates the facts, and her daughter, who must come to terms with the reality of her mother’s life against her own sheltered upbringing. In this sense it is a dual journey, which mirrors how we relate to the enormity of the historical event. Another difference is Rasia Kliot herself, who grew up in a upper middle class home, and, when the Holocaust hit, was exceedingly resourceful in surviving it. Not your typical death camp story, it is instead a celebration of the human spirit, but one that reveals a hidden, and perhaps unexpected, cost.

As Kliot and Mitsios are hardly accomplished authors, the book at first reads as a cold matter-of-fact recitation of events. But what initially feels like somewhat shallow writing begins to be something more. The story itself reveals the emotional cost for the survivor, the burying of emotion, the denial of her essence, as if in denying her very Jewishness she can spare her daughter any possibility of being exposed to such danger. The daughter’s narrative then becomes a journey of discovery in understanding her own middle class non-Jewish childhood and her mother’s motives in building such a life. It is a complex story, one that is thought-provoking and universal in appeal. Only when we come to understand our parents as people are we able to fully take our place in the world as fully functioning adults.

This review appeared in the August 2011 Historical Novels Review Issue 57.

One Response to Historical Novel Society review of Waltzing with the Enemy

  1. Charles Pope says:

    Mitsios is a very accomplished editor, college professor and book review critic…just google her name. Kliot is a fantastic writer and writes with an informed voice that is both unsentimental and moving. This is the best historical memoir I’ve read since the Berlin Diaries by a White Russian of her experiences during WWII. However, this memoir is more than a historical one as it also touches on the authors’ present day life and the repercussions of the Holocaust on both their lives.

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