Berek Lewkowicz was seventeen years old when from a window of the family apartment in Będzin, Poland, he witnessed the Nazis burning buildings and murdering Jews. The only son in a family of five, Berek would spend the next six years fighting to survive the hunger, beatings and gruelling work in forced labour camps and eventually ‘brutal and dehumanising imprisonment’ in the Small Fortress of Terezin, the Nazis’ prison across the river from the well-documented ghetto/camp.
Berek proved to have a remarkable talent for making the best of horrific situations. His sometimes ruthless quick thinking led to successes at bribing officials and in smuggling goods in to the labour camps, yielding more favourable work for himself and money to buy bread in order to help others survive. His unyielding will to live fuelled his desperate escape from a death march into Germany late in the war. Equally strong was his desire to return to life after liberation. He married and spent time in Paris and Israel, before making Australia his home.
Berek writes of his experiences with an unforgiving, almost photographic, memory. His descriptions of life in the camps and in the Small Fortress are as brutal and horrific as were the acts committed against him and his fellow Jews. He tells his unique and important story with great courage and a determination to ensure his readers will not easily forget, nor condone such inhumanity in the future.