Book Review: The Polski Affair

The Polski Affair

Leon Gildin

Diamond River Books

204 pages

I admit, I am kind of tired of books about the Holocaust.  It just seems as if that is one topic that has an overabundance of novels and nonfiction alike, so I was a bit afraid that The Polski Affair would prove to be just another one of those books that was a bit too played out for me.  Luckily, that was not the case at all.  I think the reason I was able to appreciate this book where other Holocaust books have failed me is because it was a different vein of the topic.

Hotel Polski was a hotel in Warsaw Poland where Jewish residents could se refuge, with the ultimate goal being escape from Europe .  The crazy part of the whole scheme is that the Nazis were involved, and were allowing Jews to stay in Hotel Polski and buy passports to other countries as a means of escape.  Unfortunately, this unbelievable opportunity usually ended in death for the Jews involved.  After weeks in Hotel Polski, they were loaded into trains to go to what they thought would be their new countries, but instead they were sent to prisons and death camps.  From what I have since read on the “Polski Affair”, as it’s called, it seems that part of the problem was that the countries in South America were refusing to honor these passports, so the Nazis instead transported the Jews to the death camps.  Whether or not that is the case, or whether that was actually the plan from the start, seems to remain somewhat of a mystery.  Obviously, my knowledge on the whole affair is extremely limited, and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Anyway, The Polski Affair is the story of Rosa Feurmann, later known as Anna

Hotel Polski

Adler, who is a Jew seeking refuge in the Hotel Polski.  She initially infiltrates the hotel dressed as a Polish maid, because while she has heard that Nazis are allowing Jewish asylum in the hotel, she is obviously a bit incredulous and doubtful.  After a few weeks, she catches the eye of the Nazi commander, Peter Hauptmann, who decides to make her his “assistant”.  Her job duties entail running errands for him, dining with him, and occasionally sleeping with him.  While Rosa is weary of Peter, to say the least, they also form somewhat of a bond, and there is a definite passion between the two.  Rosa has an internal battle because she despises the Nazis—before this point, they had killed her husband and two sons, so the humanity she sees in Peter, or Googy, as she calls him, scares her.

This book had one issue for me, and that is the fact that there was little character development.  The Polski Affair is very fast paced and plot oriented, so the reader knows what Rosa and the other characters are doing, but we aren’t given as much inclusion into their thoughts.  I have a feeling this might be a bit polarizing for some people, and could turn them off the book completely.  I myself was perfectly rapt the entire way through though, so while I definitely noticed the aforementioned, it didn’t end up being a problem for me.  In fact, I almost read the book in one sitting.  I had about twenty pages to go and wanted to finish so badly but my eyes were failing me and I ended up falling asleep.

For anyone who wants a small piece of history, this is a great book to read.  I am now thinking that I may have to seek out more Holocaust related books, whereas previously I couldn’t stay far enough away!

Other Reviews:

The Boston Bibliophile

Caribous Mom

This book was sent to me by the publisher for review.

8 Responses

  1. This book sounds interesting. I will have to check it out.

  2. I’ve never heard of the Hotel Polski…it sounds like a fascinating bit of unknown history. I think I’d prefer a non-fiction book about it, though.

  3. I’ve never heard of the Polski Affair either, but what a predicament for Rosa. This sounds like a gut wrenching book.

  4. […] ReviewsbyLola’s Blog by reviewsbylola – “Book Review: The Polski Affair“ […]

  5. A few years ago I was devouring books on the Holocaust and recently I’ve held off because of overload. I can see how this one may make me revisit that.

  6. I admit I was a bit disappointed when I got to the part about the character development–that’s a really big thing for me, especially with these types of books.

    Haven’t heard of Hotel Polski–I’ve found as long as the topic surrounding the Holocaust is new to me I can feel not so overloaded.

  7. This is a book I want to read.

  8. This is one that is now on my radar because of the reviews I’ve read thus far – must track it down.

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