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Paperback The Cap: The Price of a Life Book

ISBN: 0802137628

ISBN13: 9780802137623

The Cap: The Price of a Life

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Uncompromisingly frank, both brutal and beautifully written (The Boston Globe), The Cap is an unconventional Holocaust memoir that defies all moral judgment and ventures into a soul blackened by the unforgiving cruelty of its surroundings. Roman Frister's memoir of his life before, during, and after his imprisonment in the Nazi concentration camps sparked enormous controversy and became an international best-seller. With bone-chilling candor, Frister...

Customer Reviews

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A Detailed and Generally Balanced Holocaust Survivor Testimony

The following review is based on the Grove Press hardback edition. I will skip the personal details discussed by other reviewers, and focus on matters of historical significance. With one obvious exception, Frister shows an excellent grasp of factual events. He makes the unbelievable statement that the NSZ "did not kill Germans at all" (p. 263), only killed Jews, and then repeats the Communist-propaganda canard that the Brygada Swietokrzyska (Holy Cross Brigade) had fought on the German side. Even as late as 1941, Frister's mother didn't believe that the invading Germans intended to harm the Jews (p. 180). This adds to similar testimonies, and undercuts the argument that the massive Jewish-Soviet collaboration had been motivated by a desire to be protected from the Nazis. Unlike those who, from their safe perches, moralize to Poles about their need to have been more willing to risk their lives on behalf of Jews, Frister does not: "And what right did I have to condemn them? Why should they risk themselves and their families for a Jewish boy they didn't know? Would I have behaved any differently? I knew the answer to that, too. I wouldn't have lifted a finger. Everyone was equally intimidated." (p. 192) Frister writes: "Jozef Kruczek had prepared a perfect hideout for us. Beneath a bale of hay tossed with deliberate carelessness on the floor of the barn was a hidden trapdoor that descended to a cellar as big as a cottage. Before we came this had served as an abattoir. The screeching of the slaughtered pigs remained within its walls--a big help in avoiding German confiscations and getting the meat to the black market." (p. 97). Ironic to Polonophobes (e. g., Jan T. Gross), who accuse Poles of being willing to incur the German-imposed death penalty by illegally slaughtering animals, but seldom by hiding Jews, we see the same Polish secretiveness in both activities! (Besides, slaughtering an animal was a quick one-time act. Hiding a Jew was a continuous risk.) Unlike most Holocaust materials, Frister's work presents a balanced view of Polish and Jewish misdeeds. He mentions Poles looting Jews (p. 120) as well as regular Pole-on-Pole thievery (p. 100). The Judenrat, besides collaborating with the Germans in the roundups of Jews to their deaths (e. g., p. 92, 105, 120), also stole from poor Jews (p. 120). Jewish informers played an instrumental role in the uncovering of hidden Jews (e. g., p. 105, 112, 120, 190-191). Twice Frister escaped death despite being denounced to the Germans by Jewish informers (p. 112, 190-191), the latter of whom he found to be very clever and diligent in their undercover work. How many other fugitive Jews were betrayed, not by ethnic Poles as automatically assumed, but by Jewish Gestapo agents and informers? We were told, in the wake of the Auschwitz Carmelite convent controversy, that Jews find Christian symbols offensive because they remind them of past persecutions by Christians. Frister mentions a Jew, Henryk Leid

A Detailed and Generally Balanced Holocaust Survivor Testimony

I will skip the personal details discussed by other reviewers, and focus on matters of historical significance. With one obvious exception, Frister shows an excellent grasp of factual events. He makes the unbelievable statement that the NSZ "did not kill Germans at all" (p. 263), only killed Jews, and then repeats the Communist-propaganda canard that the Brygada Swietokrzyska (Holy Cross Brigade) had fought on the German side. Even as late as 1941, Frister's mother didn't believe that the invading Germans intended to harm the Jews (p. 180). This adds to similar testimonies, and undercuts the argument that the massive Jewish-Soviet collaboration had been motivated by a desire to be protected from the Nazis. Unlike those who, from their safe perches, moralize to Poles about their need to have been more willing to risk their lives on behalf of Jews, Frister does not: "And what right did I have to condemn them? Why should they risk themselves and their families for a Jewish boy they didn't know? Would I have behaved any differently? I knew the answer to that, too. I wouldn't have lifted a finger. Everyone was equally intimidated." (p. 192) Frister writes: "Jozef Kruczek had prepared a perfect hideout for us. Beneath a bale of hay tossed with deliberate carelessness on the floor of the barn was a hidden trapdoor that descended to a cellar as big as a cottage. Before we came this had served as an abattoir. The screeching of the slaughtered pigs remained within its walls--a big help in avoiding German confiscations and getting the meat to the black market." (p. 97). Ironic to Polonophobes (e. g., Jan T. Gross), who accuse Poles of being willing to incur the German-imposed death penalty by illegally slaughtering animals, but seldom by hiding Jews, we see the same Polish secretiveness in both activities! (Besides, slaughtering an animal was a quick one-time act. Hiding a Jew was a continuous risk.) Unlike most Holocaust materials, Frister's work presents a balanced view of Polish and Jewish misdeeds. He mentions Poles looting Jews (p. 120) as well as regular Pole-on-Pole thievery (p. 100). The Judenrat, besides collaborating with the Germans in the roundups of Jews to their deaths (e. g., p. 92, 105, 120), also stole from poor Jews (p. 120). Jewish informers played an instrumental role in the uncovering of hidden Jews (e. g., p. 105, 112, 120, 190-191). Twice Frister escaped death despite being denounced to the Germans by Jewish informers (p. 112, 190-191), the latter of whom he found to be very clever and diligent in their undercover work. How many other fugitive Jews were betrayed, not by ethnic Poles as automatically assumed, but by Jewish Gestapo agents and informers? We were told, in the wake of the Auschwitz Carmelite convent controversy, that Jews find Christian symbols offensive because they remind them of past persecutions by Christians. Frister mentions a Jew, Henryk Leiderman, who had no problem with rosaries when it came to selling them

Unblessed Survivor

This is the best book I have ever read dealing with the Holocaust years. I believe some movie adaptations, including "Schindler's List" and "Life is Beautiful", are in part derivative of the author's experiences as described in this autobiography. Frister's style is reminiscent of Henry Miller, and his candor is often unflattering. He is clearly a very skillful writer, and understandably, enormously troubled.

A compelling Holocaust account.

There is no doubt that this is one of the most compelling holocaust volumes that I have come across. I am sure that of the volumes that seem to appear from time to time, each account is different and opens up a new insight into the atrocities that were part of western civilisation(?). The book is eminently readable, possibly due to a fine translation from the hebrew, which, in terms of some of the vocabulary and syntax, seems to have the American reader in mind. However,this will be one of those books that I will always keep. The style of the book with the narrative moving around in time from the war to Poland in the fifties during that uncertain period of post war communism, makes it even more " nonputdownable". Being of Polish extract, I found the references to Polish anti-semitism diifficult to come to terms with. After all it was the Poles who gave the "East European Jew" the opportunity to settle in the land. Even so, Frister was also quick to point out the cruelty meeted out by fellow Jews and his own "rape" was committed by one of his own people. Frister brings us close to the loves of his life and one could not help but feel sorry for the loss of those he had loved. You could do worse than buy this book. I commend it to anyone with a feeling towards the end of human suffering at the hands of our fellow man.

Pick this book up!

I've read lots of Holocaust memoirs, and this one truly stands out. I picked this book up at a Barnes and Noble just before going to the SF airport, and I couldn't put it down. You can just feel the author's honesty when reading this. He doesn't hide anything, not even about himself. He brings up several issues not always not always found in other memoirs. There are several different plots going on, so you'll want to continue reading in order to keep up with them all.
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