Baba Schwartz’s story began before the Holocaust could have been imagined. As a spirited girl in a warm and loving Jewish family, she lived a normal life in a small town in eastern Hungary. In The May Beetles, Baba describes the innocence and excitement of her childhood, remembering her early years with verve and emotion.
But then, unspeakable horror. Baba tells of the shattering of her family and their community from 1944, when the Germans transported the 3000 Jews of her town to Auschwitz. She lost her father to the gas chambers, yet she, her mother and her two sisters survived this concentration camp and several others to which they were transported as slave labour. They eventually escaped the final death march and were liberated by the advancing Russian army. But despite the suffering, Baba writes about this period with the same directness, freshness and honesty as she writes about her childhood.
Full of love amid hatred, hope amid despair, The May Beetles is sure to touch your heart.
‘Put down whatever you are reading and read this book. Baba, a charming, gifted and lively young companion, will take you back to a luminous childhood in Hungary before the war, will show you the darkening, and finally lead you to the gates of Hell. The human perversity on the other side of those gates remains incomprehensible, impenetrable to reason. But what Baba and her family embody – their antidote – is the durability of ordinary love.’ —Robyn Davidson
‘Told with the tempered calm of a born writer, Baba Schwartz’s memoir evokes the world of a Jewish Hungarian childhood, and brings us one of the great survival stories of the Second World War.’ —Joan London
‘A calmly personal account of a mighty cataclysm; astonishing in its dignity and composure, unforgettable in its sweetness of tone’ —Helen Garner
‘This book is testament to two miracles. First, of Baba’s survival. And second, of the survival within her of the girl - now an old woman - who nevertheless perceives the world, utterly without sentiment, as a place of “inexhaustible sources of delight”. An important document of witness, survival and the quiet triumph of loving life despite what it has shown you.’ —Anna Funder
‘“Never again” was the promise. But are parents, politicians and teachers making sure this promise is kept? Reading and discussing The May Beetles and other equally fine and compelling recollections of the Holocaust, are powerful and immediate ways of honouring this promise.’ —Agnes Nieuwenhuizen, Weekend Australian
‘Her memory is astonishing and from the point of a reader, in its nuance and recall of detail, this makes the story utterly trustworthy throughout … Baba’s love of life shines through at every moment.’ —Robert Manne
‘This story is full of genuinely heart-stopping moments – compulsive reading, especially towards the end’ —Australian Book Review
‘Baba Schwartz’s clean, classical style – she is a natural – is matched by the poise with which she relates her tale: almost in the way a novelist observes a character - A superior memoir.’ —Pick of the Week, The Age