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Like The Diary of
Anne Frank most diaries about the Holocaust end at the point when the
individual is taken prisoner. This is just the point that Fortress of My
Youth by Jana Renee Friesova begins. It is a picture of life
within the Terezin Camp that is at time sad, at others humorous, at times
filled with importance and at other the minutiae of everyday life. This is a
coming of age story that will not be easily forgotten.
Fortress of My Youth
by Jana Renee Friesova cover from December
1942 until May 1945. Raised a Christian, Jana was surprised to discover that
her grandmothers ancestry branded her a Jewess according the Nazi definition
of Aryan purity. Beginning in 1939 with the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the
Nazi, 12-year old Jana began her new life as an oppressed minority. First her
family was compressed into one room of their once large home, then they were
forbidden to travel to visit her beloved grandparents, and finally on December
19, 1942, her family boards a train to Terezin. There she is separated from her
parents. First she lived in secret in the attic of her Uncle Josephs house for
the elderly and finally she moved into the Madchenheim or house for girls. There
she was forced to work in the fields with her fellow female inmates, but there
too she also made friends, shared secrets, and discover love. Contrary to the
usual picture of concentration camp life, Jana paints a picture of life that
included schooling, cafes, concerts, and dances. While not blind to the horrors
around her or the likelihood of being transported to a death camp, Jana details
a life that at time is filled with the ordinary issues and desires of a young
teenage girl becoming a young woman.
Jana Renée Friesová is a Holocaust survivor. She was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. At
the age of 15, she and her family was sent to Thereseinstadt and only by quick
thinking did her mother save Jana and herself from being transported to Auschwitz
where her father died, and she would almost certainly meet her own death. She completed her Ph.D. at Charles
University in Prague, she taught philosophy and Jewish studies until her
retirement. She has worked with the Shoah Foundation, translated books by Nikos
Kazantzakis and Judy Blume into Czechoslovakian, and continues to lives in
Prague, Czech Republic.
Fortress of My Youth by
Jana Renee Friesova is a very unique insiders view of growing up
in a Nazi Concentration camp. Unlike some books that focus only on the worst
that could and did happen, this book paints a more positive view of life. It is
a good companion work to The Diary of Anne Frank. I highly recommend
© 2003 Su Terry
Su Terry: Education:
B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from
Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral
Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from
New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual
Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the
United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at
Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested
in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of
research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.
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