A Holocaust Story
By Dan Porat
Hill and Wang, Hardcover, 9780809030712, 272pp.
Publication Date: October 26, 2010
A cobblestone road. A sunny day. A soldier. A gun. A child, arms high in the air. A moment captured on film. But what is the history behind arguably the most recognizable photograph of the Holocaust? In The Boy: A Holocaust Story, the historian Dan Porat unpacks this split second that was immortalized on film and unravels the stories of the individuals—both Jews and Nazis—associated with it.
The Boy presents the stories of three Nazi criminals, ranging in status from SS sergeant to low-ranking SS officer to SS general. It is also the story of two Jewish victims, a teenage girl and a young boy, who encounter these Nazis in Warsaw in the spring of 1943. The book is remarkable in its scope, picking up the lives of these participants in the years preceding World War I and following them to their deaths. One of the Nazis managed to stay at large for twenty-two years. One of the survivors lived long enough to lose a son in the Yom Kippur War. Nearly sixty photographs dispersed throughout help narrate these five lives. And, in keeping with the emotional immediacy of those photographs, Porat has deliberately used a narrative style that, drawing upon extensive research, experience, and oral interviews, places the reader in the middle of unfolding events.
“A reader goes back, again and again, to the 60 photographs that accompany the text. It is like pinching one’s skin after a dream to see if one has woken in the same world in which one went to sleep. Or first opened The Boy.” —Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times “A poignant and riveting investigation.” —Elie Wiesel “A gripping, harrowing Holocaust story, based mostly on facts, but embroidered with probabilities and imaginative suppositions derived from the characters and events involved . . . Mr. Porat has given the world a far greater insight into the hellish universe surrounding the photograph, but, as he suggests, he has not ultimately penetrated its essential mystery. And that mystery may be one reason the photograph will endure.” —Joseph Berger, The New York Times Lens Blog “An often disturbing, sometimes uplifting but always fascinating and incredible piece of history drawn from a single image. This book is destined to become a classic piece of work on the Holocaust.” —Darren Jones, The Herald-Dispatch (Huntington, W.Va.) “A remarkable work and an essential document in the vast library devoted to the Shoah.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “With extraordinary imagination and creativity, Dan Porat pieces together the available evidence and narrates the biography of a photograph, an iconic photograph of a child's helplessness in the face of the Nazi terror. His account complicates and humanizes the story of the photograph by productively and provocatively pushing the limits of the historian's craft. A gripping read!” —David Myers, Professor of Jewish History, UCLA “With originality and alertness to detail, Dan Porat brilliantly tells the story behind one of the most recognized photographs of the Holocaust. Commingling imagination, storytelling, and photographs, Porat crafts an arresting story about Jewish victims and Nazi perpetrators. The Boy is a historical-literary narrative that brings to life a moment frozen in time and broadens our understanding of what common historical writing can describe.” —Alon Confino, Professor, University of Virginia “In this captivating story, Dan Porat allows us to imagine the unimaginable by peering through the eyes of a single boy and those who brutally sealed his fate. A historical detective story of the highest order.”—Sam Wineburg, Margaret Jacks Professor of Education and History, Stanford University