This book, The Mascot (by Mark Kurzem, published 2007), tells the truly astonishing story of the author’s father, Alex Kurzem, and his amazing survival during WWII.
Alex was a 5 year old Jewish boy who was hiding as he watched his family and whole community get murdered by a German-led execution squad. Hiding in the forest for some months, he was eventually captured by soldiers. One soldier discovered Alex was Jewish and made him promise never to let anyone know of his Jewishness and to forget everything of his past life. Alex then became the soldiers’ mascot and travelled with the soldiers for some time. He became well known amongst the Nazi troops, all the time keeping his Jewishness a secret, and forgetting his own name.
Afterwards, Alex lived with a Latvian family and in time, he grew and immigrated to Melbourne, Australia where he married and had children of his own – none of whom knew anything about Alex’s history or his involvement in the Nazi activities. Eventually, Alex begins to share his secrets, triggering a search to find out who he really was. This search led to amazing discoveries and stories from others who corroborated the truth.
Words include: powerful, remarkable, shocking, tragic, beautiful. I read this book within a few days and could not put it down. I found the story at times repelling, but compelling at the same time. I am grateful that my meagre understanding of history and the impact of war into the lives of people has been extended greatly by this book.
I found this link to a US 60Minute story about Alex Kurzem – who lives in Melbourne. (click the video, and you'll have to endure a commercial first before the real story starts.)
I highly recommend this book.