Thursday, January 27, 2011

Broken Birds

Publisher's Summary. Broken Birds is the nitty gritty, raw truth story of a twelve-year-old girl (My mom), who outwits, outruns and outlasts the strongest army of the time: the Nazi war machine. Fate brings her to New York City, where opposites attract when a very war torn and pessimistic Channa finds true love in Nathan, a tall dark and very optimistic man who also survived the war. (And that’s only the first 70 pages).

Their dance is set.

They re-create a family, but Channa’s emotional foundation causes her to pass along wartime fears and trepidations to their five children and forces Nathan to constantly prove his allegiance to her. This fertile ground was ideal for perfecting submergence of feelings, hurts and a distorted view of love and family loyalties.

When Mom unexpectedly dies her children must finally confront reality . . . and the bad blood begins. When the battle finally ends and the smoke clears we are all too aware of the illusion we all seemed to share.

Broken Birds, illuminates the positives and the negatives that occur in life, love and family. The trials and tribulations of Channa and her family touch the reader and cause them to ponder their own family patterns, evaluation, dynamics and weaknesses. Is then up them to try to affect a change, while they still are able.

Review. Officially, the Holocaust ended in 1945 with Germany’s surrender and Hitler’s suicide. Unofficially, however, the aftermath of mankind’s darkest hours continues, over a half a century later, in the lives of millions of survivors and their families. Broken Birds by Jeannette Katzir, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, is a personal account of a modern-day American family that has been ripped apart by the Holocaust’s lingering effects.

Channa and Nathan Poltzer (Katzir’s parents) were Eastern European, Jewish, children when Hitler’s march across the European continent began. By the war’s end, both had survived (barely): Channa by living in the woods as a Partisan (Jewish resistant fighter) and Nathan by working in Dachau (a concentration camp). Their personal victory was bittersweet as both had lost nearly all of their family members.

By the time Channa and Nathan meet and marry in their new U.S. home, they are “broken birds.” In fact, brokenness” is the legacy they leave to their five children. As Katzir poignantly observes, “Mom and Dad had lost their parents in those formative years. Their only proxy, The War, never taught them how to balance money, family, loyalty, love and hate. Lacking those basic ideals, they raised us [Katzir and her siblings] to view these same issues through untrusting eyes.” Although the Poltzer family experiences interpersonal issues for years (e.g. Channa continually fears Nathan will abandon her and the siblings fight amongst themselves) the family drama comes to crescendo after Katzir’s mother unexpectedly dies. Sadly, Channa’s will sows the seeds of a lasting family feud when she leaves the bulk of her substantial estate to Steven (Katzir’s brother). And even more unfortunately, Steven decides to take the inheritance and run. This leads the remaining siblings into a bitter court battle. Ultimately, because this is a true story there are no happy resolutions -- only a powerful and profoundly sad tale.

Broken Birds is a compelling memoir that I had trouble putting down. From an outsider’s perspective, before reading Katzir’s memoir, I would have considered Channa and Nathan to have triumphed over their horrific pasts. And while they did (at least in part) the psychic scars remained. Additionally, I was enthralled by Katzir’s recounting of the Holocaust “remembrance” journey she took with her father and a few of her siblings. In fact, I wanted to read more about Nathan’s experiences revisiting symbolic places in his Holocaust past, because these are the stories that must never be forgotten!

Broken Birds is not an “enjoyable” read, but it is a “must” read!

Review copy provided courtesy of the author.


  1. I think I MUST read this memoir. It sounds wonderful Kim. Excellent review.

  2. I really should read this one too, yes sad things are sad and horrible but some books should be read, I need to toughen up

  3. I'm not much for reading this type of book, but think this one deserves to be read.

    Love your review!

  4. I'm glad that my book touched you. Sometimes the horrors of our family's past come and bite us in the rump also.
    Jeannette Katzir

  5. This is a different take on many Holocaust stories where things come to an end when the war does but as this memoir shows that is not the case. It really does sound like a 'must' read. Great review!