Title: Zaidy’s War: Four Armies, Three Continents, Two Brothers. One Man’s Impossible Story of Endurance
Martin Bodek has written an unusual and heartwarming tribute to his beloved Zaidy, his maternal grandfather, Benzion Malik. This cleverly constructed account of Zaidy’s unlikely survival during six long years of war is well structured and absorbing.
The first part is a chronologically consistent biography of Zaidy’s extraordinary journey from his call up in 1939 to the Romanian army, his subsequent pressed service into slave labour for the Hungarian and German forces and finally conscription into Soviet forces until the end of WWII. Chronicling the horrors of war and the many personal losses Zaidy suffered is just the first part of the story.
The tale is leant authenticity in the next section which details the transcripts of several interviews the author conducted with his grandfather in old age. The consistency of an old man’s failing memory, prompted by his daughter and grandson serves to underscore the accuracy of Martin Bodek’s account. The questions posed by mother and son are given verbatim, as are Benzion’s occasional hesitating lapses. These details suffuse the book with charm. We sense the daughter’s anxiety to cajole and wring every anecdote from her father for her son’s benefit. In this way, we get to meet the author’s mother – who had doubtless often heard these stories repeated many times throughout her own lifetime – as the link in the chain memory from the previous generation to the next.
Finally, the appendices bring to life the extended family and their tribulations in the notorious Nazi death camps. The book highlights triumph of the human spirit and the life of a remarkable man who survived to live an honorable life of decency and to raise a large, faithful and loving family. Martin Bodek’s book is both absorbing and well written. It is well worth reading.