The Fragile Fabric of Survival: A Boy’s Account of Auschwitz
Tomáš Radil, Academic Editor: Bella Guterman
It is impossible to forget Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is useful to remember the basic ethical principles that allowed individuals to retain their humanity even in conditions that were barely human. Born in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, Tomáš Radil grew up in Párkány (Štúrovo), a small border town on the Danube that became part of Hungary in 1938. When the Wehrmacht occupied the country in mid-March 1944, the tide of war had long turned against Germany. Despite the precarious military situation on all fronts, the Nazis did not abandon their genocidal plans. Within eight weeks, hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where most of them were murdered immediately after arrival.
Among the deportees were thirteen-year-oldTomáš and his family. Soon after Tomáš’ arrival at Auschwitz, he was separated from his loved ones and found himself alone among a group of teenage boys. Robbed of their childhood and of all social connections, dehumanized, exposed to starvation, and under the constant threat of death, the teenagers found each other. They formed small groups, supported one another, and adopted a set of rules that became the ethical framework of their struggle for survival. Despite the unbearable suffering and loss, Tomáš’ retained his desire to live and was one of the few survivors. Although liberation from the camp was not the end of his suffering, it was the starting point of a long journey to rebuild a home and a life that had been stolen from him and from so many others. In The Fragile Fabric of Survival, Tomáš Radil not only depicts in detail the brutal conditions that he and other inmates had to endure in Auschwitz-Birkenau, but provides the reader with a sensitive and incisive insight into the unique social structure of the camp, poignantly highlighting both the individual and the collective responses to this harsh reality. Based on his personal experience and on his expertise as a psychologist, psychophysiologist, and neurophysiologist, Radil’s unique and important account is inequal parts personal testimony, social study, and a memorial to his family, friends, and fellow inmates who perished in the Holocaust.