It has taken me a week to figure out how I want to review this book. You know when you read a book that really affects you, well Bela's Letters was that way for me. I was enthralled from the first page and I had a hard time putting it down. It is a big book, almost 600 pages but well worth the read.
You do not have to be a history buff either to enjoy this book, written as historical fiction but based on letters from the Ingber family to each other. Through these letters and added dialogue, we learn of the family and each of the large family. It takes place starting in the late 30's and goes through until the death of Bela.
The family lives in Munkács in the Carpathian Mountains in Central Europe. A Jewish family that lives through the worst times of WWII, if that is possible. The Soviet invasion of Poland was a Soviet military operation that started without a formal declaration of war. When it happened and after Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. A lot of the Soviet's POW's were forced to defend them and because most of them were Jews, they were expected to fight but were not given guns. Living conditions were poor, people died of starvation and diseases and then came the Germans, who herded all of the Jews that they could find, women, men, old and young off to the concentration camps, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and the worst one of them was Bergen-Belsen. We all know and learned what happened at these camps, horrible mass murders, and other atrocities. If you have any doubt that these things happened, read this book.
This book is not only about the deaths and capture of the Ingber family but also a book about courage, love, respect and being Jewish. Some of the family died in the camps but some did survive and were able to leave Europe and move to the America, mostly in New York. A family that was dysfunctional like any family but who also had the courage to overcome the atrocities of war. I found it fascinating how many letters were written amongst the extended family. Definitely a heartbreaking story, I think more moving than the Diary of Anne Frank. Even in the worst of times, the love in a family can and does survive. I think that this is a story that everyone should read.