In my second of three reviews I am doing on books about World War II, I decided to read about the experiences of Ivan Goldstein as a tanker in the 11th U.S. Armored Division in the European Theater. Goldstein writes about his experiences in his book entitled Surviving the Reich: The World War II Saga of a Jewish-American GI. Goldstein’s book is more about his whole life rather than just on his war experiences.
The book generally traces his childhood growing up in Denver, Colorado in a conservative Jewish family. Goldstein grew up with a loving mother who did all that she needed to do to keep her family together (his father died when he was a child) – one of his mom’s relatives told her to put her boys in an orphanage. Goldstein’s love for his mother shows throughout the book. He not only values his family, but also his religion.
The book then describes Goldstein’s military service. He ended up in Europe just prior to the Battle of the Bulge. In his first battle, his tank was destroyed and he was taken captive. In captivity, he lost more than 100 pounds and needed extensive rehab after his POW camp was liberated. The last segment of the book covers Goldstein’s post-military career – including his reconnection with his destroyed tank in a Belgian town.
Whenever I read an account of a Jewish-American soldier in World War II, I am always amazed. Each account relates how they were determined in doing their part in defeating the Nazis – all the while fighting anti-Semitism in our own armed forces. Goldstein is no exception, he experienced anti-Semitism from his company commander and other military personnel. However, he took this harassment in stride – he did bow down in fear to his commander – he defiantly stood his ground no matter the consequences.
Goldstein is a good storyteller. He takes the reader back in time with him as he struggles to survive in the various POW camps he is placed in. His descriptions are filled with the emotions of the moment – the fear of dieing in an Allied air attack, the bond he forms with his fellow POWs, and the joy of meeting his mother when he returns to the states.
Goldstein tells a compelling story that keeps you interested throughout the book – I have found that many biographies have slow parts, but not this one. He tells an inspiring story of faith, determination, and friendship.