Harper Collins, Historical Nonfiction, Holocaust, Memoirs, One More Chapter, WWII

The Girl Who Survived Auschwitz by Eti Elboim and Sara Leibovits


Poland, 1944 The train slowed and halted with a squeal of the brakes. It felt like we waited in the carriage for an eternity, but eventually, the heavy doors opened, directly into the chaos outside.

Sara Leibovitz, a 16-year-old Jewish girl, was a passenger on the train with her family. They spent their final moments together on the platform in Auschwitz before their horrific fates were sealed. Sara’s mother and baby brothers were sent straight to their deaths. Her father was made to work in the Sonderkommando as one of the men forced to remove the bodies from the gas chambers, and was later executed. Sara survived.

This is the powerful true story of Sara Leibovits and the incredible pain and hardships she went through during her time in the death camp. Yet despite the horrors she faced, she always tried to maintain her family’s values of courage, faith and kindness to others. In this compelling memoir, Sara’s story is intertwined with that of her daughter, Eti. Seventy years after the horrors of the Holocaust, Eti reveals the inherited trauma of the second generation and completes the Holocaust survivor’s tale.


It’s been a while since I picked up a memoir and Leibovits’ and Elboim’s dual perspectives are unique from mother/daughter points of view on how the Holocaust affected not only them individually, but as a family.

Humanity can be evil, but human beings can also be good, and every individual is given the opportunity to choose.

Of course, the subject matter is horrific and devastating as we read Sara’s true account of her suffering, her loss, and her incredible strength to survive one of the most heinous and reprehensible war crimes in the history of the world. From the long harsh train journey to Auschwitz to the joyful, yet terrifying, liberation by the Russian army, the reader witnesses a healthy and innocent 16-year-old girl become a resourceful survivor full of despair with a certain measure of hope. Sara’s faith remained strong in the death camp even with the daily horrors she endured. 

As a child, I understood that every home with Holocaust survivors had its own atmosphere, created by its occupants.

Sara’s daughter, Eti, also describes her life with both parents being Holocaust survivors and how she embraces her mother’s courage and perseverance to give back to her community and family.

Beautiful poetry is interspersed throughout the book.  Also, the authors’ dedication to their family members who perished is listed in memoriam at the end: A true heartbreaking testament of how a family was gone in a frightening instant.

I will never understand this appalling time in our history, but it needs to be kept at the forefront of people’s minds considering the growing racism and xenophobia in America.

I appreciate Sara and Eti sharing their personal journeys through such a difficult time, and I encourage one to read about this important time in history. 

Thank you to Ms. Leibovits and Ms. Elboim for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.


The Girl Who Survived Auschwitz

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Eti Elboim

Eti Elboim is Sara Leibovitz’s youngest daughter and a writer, journalist, and playwright. As a second-generation Holocaust survivor, she completed a “Memorial Envoys” course from the Shem Olam Institute and became an advocate of her mother’s story.

Sara Leibovits

Sara Leibovitz was born in 1928 in Velikiye Komyaty in the Czech Republic. When she was a child, the region was annexed to Hungary and today it is a part of Ukraine. Sara is the eldest daughter of six children in the Hershkovits family. After the German military invaded her village in March 1944, when she was almost 16, Sara was taken with her parents and five brothers to the Munkács ghetto, and several weeks later they were taken by train to Auschwitz Extermination Camp. Sara’s mother and five brothers were taken directly to the gas chambers. Separated from her family, Sara was sent to work in the camp. The number A-7807 was tattooed on her arm. Her father was taken to work as a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and she met him several times, beyond four barbed wire fences. A few months later, her father was executed.

Sara stayed in Auschwitz for nine months, until the day of its liberation, when she weighed a mere 28 kg. She was the only one of her family to survive the camp. She immigrated to Israel in 1947 with her husband and their two-year-old daughter Dalia, and later they had two more daughters – Dorit and Eti. Sara’s life mission is to tell the story of what happened to her in Auschwitz. Over the years, she has become a “woman of testimony” and has given many lectures about her Holocaust story, always repeating the words, “I survived to tell.”

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