Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Secret of Priest's Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story by Peter Lane Taylor with Christos Nicola

The premise of this book is amazing—during the Holocaust a group of Ukranian Jews survived by living in deep underground caves for 344 days (the longest known time for humans to remain in a cave). Nicola, a cave explorer, found evidence of human activity in the Priest's Grotto cave network, and set out to investigate. Eventually he found some of the survivors alive and living in Canada. The book is a combination of their memories and the modern-day discovery of their hiding place. While it is an amazing story and comes with attractive photographs and maps, I couldn't help thinking it could have been more clearly told if it did not alternate between the past and the present. The story of the 38 survivors is amazing and inspiring, and deserves to be known. The heroic actions of the men who would sneak out of the cave for supplies are well documented, but I was left wondering more about the life of those who never left the darkness for 344 days. What was it like for the women and teens and the 1-year-old? How did they pass the time? Did they fight? Did they have light other than fire? Did anyone get sick or get pregnant or go crazy? The isolation they endured is unimaginable. A fascinating Holocaust story with a happy outcome.

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