This post contains affiliate links. I would say a good 50% of my reading is comprised of World War II fiction and non-fiction. Recently, I read But You Did Not Come Back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens, and the rawness of this book haunted me.
About But You Did Not Come Back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens
This book is only approximately 100 pages, but it is haunting.
When she is just 15, the Nazis (with the complicit help of the French police), arrest Marceline and her father and send them to Auschwitz. The Nazis separate them–one goes to Auschwitz and the other to nearby Bergen-Belson.
However, Marceline’s father manages to get a note to her. Even into her old age, Marceline reflects on the wonder of that–how did he get the paper? the pen? What haunts Marceline is that she cannot remember what the letter said, only that it began, “My darling little girl.” That letter, and its contents that she can’t remember, ripple throughout Marceline’s life and her memoir.
When she writes of the camp, she is blunt. She does not try to shield the reader from the details of camp life. She speaks in a haunting way of watching a little girl, probably about 4, clutching her doll as she’s led off to the gas chamber. She writes about digging trenches for dead bodies. (When the Allies grow closer, the Nazis no longer run the crematorium for fear of being caught. Instead, they kill the Jews and bury them in mass graves dug by other Jewish prisoners.)
While reading about the time in her camp is heartbreaking and disturbing, reading about her life after the camp is equally difficult. She is sure that most of her family wishes her father had lived rather than her.
My Thoughts on the Book
Overall, this book touched me deeply, but at times, it felt too raw and personal. I felt myself wanting to turn away in horror. Her descriptions are so stark.
Also, I didn’t understand how only she and her father were arrested. What about the other family members?
While she was lucky in that she had a whole family still alive to return to, Marceline makes it very clear that for her, a family without her father was not much comfort.
I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.
Other Reading Suggestions
If you’re interested in other Holocaust survivors’ stories, I’d recommend these:
Until We Meet Again by Michael Korenblit and Kathleen Janger
A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal