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Author: Jerry L. Jennings as told by Ida Hoffmann FirestoneISBN: 978-0-9819417-8-3
Darkness Hides the Flowers is a stunning Holocaust memoir on many levels, simultaneously poignant, beautiful, and terrifying. Ida Hoffman was a young teenager forced her to survive alone in Nazi-occupied France and her memoir recounts her decades-old experiences in sharp detail.
There are several things that make this memoir very distinct. One, Ida and her family never formally admitted to being Jewish so they never donned the yellow star. Her father was sent to a concentration camp, not because his ethnicity was discovered but because his Russian background made him suspected of Communist sympathies. The family’s Jewish identity was generally known to their acquaintances, however, but Ida, her mother, and her sisters were rescued by a kind neighbor just minutes before they would have been deported.
Ida and her family were helped by many kind people and almost killed by others and Ida recounts this varied cast of characters in photographic detail. Her first impression of the Germans was that of “some monstrous machine . . . raising and crashing their boots in unison” and “a colony of huge grey ants” but she encountered several more up close, one who, ignorant of their ethnicity, kindly gave them free bread until Ida’s mother countered his arrogant assumption of an easy British victory, and another who was romantically entangled with a French neighbor.
Her schoolteachers knew
she was Jewish and though some had previously expressed their
virulent anti-Semitism quite openly, the school’s Dean went out of
his way (and put himself in considerable danger) by warning Ida of an
impending Jewish round-up. After the family lost their breadwinner to
the concentration camp, Ida’s piano teacher, a devout Catholic,
risked arrest by continuing Ida’s lessons for free (although giving
piano lessons to Jews was illegal) telling Ida that she was “so
talented that God would punish me if I did not [continue].”
Shortly after she and her family wound up on a farm that harbored refugees, Ida, without being told why, suddenly became the slave of a rich, heartless Frenchwoman and this part of the story is absolutely nightmarish. Beaten and starved on a daily basis, she was forced to survive on her own when the family went on vacation, locating a series of temporary shelters in the surrounding rural area but in almost every case, keeping her ethnicity a secret. This kept her alive more than once: during a particularly frightening encounter, Ida overheard a farmer referencing the bounty offered by the Germans for escaped Jews in a conversation with his wife: “Ohh, if I could just find myself a Jew we could get a new tractor.” She left the farm that night.
The starvation and constant fear nearly killed Ida and her physical and emotional healing took years. Decades later, she met author Jerry L. Jennings and the resultant memoir is illustrated with Ida’s paintings (from memory) of the French countryside where she was forced to wander and contains the poetry that she wrote during her virtual imprisonment.
Darkness Hides the Flowers is a beautifully written, powerful page-turner.
Click Here To Purchase Darkness Hides the Flowers (English and French Edition)