"The Testimony" was generously supplied to me by the publisher, and it had been on my to-read list for some time due to my interest in books about WW2. Halina Wagowska's autobiographical story is as inspiring as it is shocking and sobering. Having survived unspeakable horrors at the hands of the German Nazi regime, she has been able to not only reclaim her life, but also to stand up for other oppressed groups in society, such as our indigenous people and the refugees landing on our shores.
The author's account of the atrocities committed in German concentration camps is factual and almost detached - which makes it even more chilling. Having read many such accounts I was no stranger to some of the facts recounted in this book, but it is impossible not to be touched and repulsed by the actions of people against fellow human beings. And despite the unspeakable horrors she has endured as a young girl, Wagowska still manages to be baffled by the hatred she has had to face, rather than submitting to hating her tormentors. In fact, she tells of a moment when she is so overcome by hatred that she fantasizes about killing German officers - and how her mother reacts to this with shock and horror.
"I could not see why Mother got so upset. Later I heard her say, to a woman who kept talking about the damage to property, that the greatest damage was being done to the minds of children - would they ever be normal if they survived? I must have been on the verge of insanity then. But in Frieda, as in Mother and Goldie, neither regression nor brutalisation was evident."
Maybe it is due to her parent's inherent belief in the goodness in people imprinted in the author's own heart which has allowed her to move past the unspeakable suffering, and feel love instead of hate. Wagowska states in the beginning of the book, that "bridge-building across the human divide" is the recurrent theme in her story. Focusing on the positive acts of human kindness which in the end ensured her survival, as well as her love for her new country Australia, the book becomes an inspiring account of triumph over adversity. I felt grateful to the author for sharing her amazing story, which in me renewed the faith in possibility of the survival of love and joy against all odds. If forgiveness has been possible for this person, who has seen hell and has come out of it with a loving heart, then we must also try to find the human core within ourselves and build bridges to our fellow human beings rather than condemn them for their differences.
A book well worth reading - it will shock and inspire you and make sure that history is not forgotten and that its lessons are passed on to future generations.