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Jeannette Katzir

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Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila
by Jeannette Katzir   

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Publisher:  Self ISBN-10:  0615274838 Type: 


Copyright:  April 2009 ISBN-13:  9780615274836

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Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila

It's about me, the child of Holocaust Survivors and how their experiences during the war influenced the way they raised me.

In Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila, I delve into my family, the Poltzer Family, and what happened to the generation after Mom and Dad's...the second generation.

Unaware of our chips and fractures, my four siblings and I believed we were a happy family.  But, the seeds of intense sibling rivalries planted when we were too young to remember were sprouting and flourishing just beneath the surface.  We ended up lying, cheating, begruding and emotionally harming each other over and over again.

When Mom unexpectedly died, the biased and problematic will she wrote caused all hell to break loose.  It was a no holds-back slugfest.  The battles raged in our attempt to resolve our new issues, while the old scars were bubbling to the surface.

When the battles were over, I was able to see my family clearly.

In the end, the Holocaust not only broke Mom and Dad, but indirectly us too.

After focusing so much on my role as a mother at Laura’s wedding, I thought a great deal about my role as a daughter, and of how my own mother and I were getting along at the time. Mom could be so disapproving. She was quick to judge and objected to my parenting decisions. So much so, that I decided the only way to protect my children, and myself was to restrict certain subjects of discussion with her.
“Are we going to talk about nonsense again?” she would ask when we spoke on the telephone.
“Yes, Mom,” I answered, feeling sorry that it had to be this way. We chatted superficially about the weather and Hollywood gossip. “Did you hear about Joan Rivers and yet another facelift?”
Unlike Mom, I applauded my children for their undertakings. When it came to my own accomplishments, however, Mom made it clear that she was unhappy that I had been so successful. When she said it, I could not believe my ears. “I need you to need me,” she explained.
“But Mom, I will always need you.”
“But I can’t help you. Your problems are too big for me.” She confessed.
It was such a blow – my own mother was not happy that after all these years, all that work, we had made it. Then and there, I made a personal vow not to do that to my children. I tried very hard to accept the fact that Mom and Dad were broken birds, with a difficult past that continued to haunt them and shape their relationships. Her torturous past would always make her suspicious of the future, and the present was simply a state of anticipation as she waited for everything to go to pieces around her. She was simply not capable of enjoying the moment.
Mom’s lack of trust—although understandable in so many ways—had done permanent damage to her relationships. Even Dad was not her blood, and therefore, in some paradoxical way, still a stranger. She adored him, but also feared and mistrusted him, all simultaneously and in equal amounts.
Mom’s fears and paranoia had leaked down to me, turning me into a fearful person as well. I rode horses, but was laden with anxieties of what injuries I could sustain at any moment. Once, on a ski vacation, I took a ski lesson, and the instructor mentioned that I was leaning too far back. “If you are going to ski, you have to commit and lean into it,” she told me. However, that was how I lived my life, never truly leaning into it, but leaning back and never putting my full heart into it, always fearful of losing it all.
Mom’s handiwork could be found on all her “five children.”
It was as if Mom had successfully created one giant body—hers—with many heads—ours. Although we spoke separately, we were intimately connected. Injuring one would injure all. It was very difficult to do or think anything without the family voicing opinions, and those opinions were very powerful, affecting all our thoughts and actions. Even as we grew older, we could not separate ourselves.

Professional Reviews

Compulsive Reader
Reviewed by Teresa Aguilar

Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila
by Jeannette Katzir
Paperback: 340 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0615274836

Broken Birds The Story Of My Momila is an amazing story based on true events from the author‘s own life. This beautifully written memoir by Jeanette Katzir is a must read for anyone. I found myself affected in many ways by the emotions of the people in the story as they suffered, and triumphed during the holocaust. I also found myself engaged in the story as the characters moved to America and tried to rebuild their lives and start a new family. I can sympathize with the author in her feelings of betrayal by her family over the years yet still trying to remain loyal. This book has so many feelings and thoughts over family and loyalty that anyone can relate to it whether they are Jewish or not.

The Tale begins in a courtroom with the five grown Poltzer Children on opposing sides. It then moves on to the story of Channa, retelling her family’s life in a small rural town in Poland. As World War II begins, Germans begin coming into Channa’s home town putting restrictions on all the Jewish people. They were not allowed in certain areas, and were required to wear a Star of David on their clothing. As the war rages on the Jewish people have more and more rights taken from them until they lose their homes and are taken to ghettos to live with very little food allowed them. Channa’s older brother Isaac takes her and runs away to the forest to live with the Partisan for a few years until the Germans were forced out of Poland. From there Channa and Isaac leave for New York to begin a new life.

Nathan’s Story picks up in Czechoslovakia, born into a large family in a small single story home. The hardships of his mother trying to raise the family in any way she can. The children work as well to help support the family. After the family is forced to move to a brick factory with no plumbing and very little food for days on end the Nazis come and separate the families. Packing the men into train cars and sending them to war camps. From there it goes on to tell Nathan’s experiences in various war camps leading up to his eventual escape. Nathan and two others try to keep hidden at various farms so they are not captured. The American’s eventually arrive and they are saved and Nathan moves to America.

We are then in New York with Channa and Nathan and find out how they eventually meet, get married and start having children. The hardships they go through just starting out and the family troubles they have. Until they eventually move to California with promises of a job and a better financial situation.

The middle of the book follows the Poltzer children their stories beginning with Jaclyn recalling the move and the births of the younger children. Growing up in California in the 1960’s, and the growing problems within her family. Channa constantly stressing that family is first and not to trust anyone else putting her insecurities into her children. Following the lives of the children as they grow up and marry, starting their own families. The resulting problem between the siblings as they start their own businesses and the loyalties of the family is tested.

Lastly, the book returns back to the courtroom with the Poltzer children fighting over Channa’s estate when she passes on. Some of the Poltzers think they should get more than the others, while others just want their rightful inheritance. The Poltzers return to Nathan’s home and understand his history and what he suffered through. Even today the German people try to hide the truth of what really happened during the holocaust. The loyalties are broken between some of the family members during the court process and some of the truths are finally revealed about the nature of the Poltzer children.

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