“Hanging Hitler’s Long Johns” is a Holocaust memoir by Roman Ward, a Polish Jew whose harrowing journey started in 1939, when he was just 10 years old. He was living in the city of Kalisz, where Roman’s father was a successful businessman and respected veteran of World War I, and where the family lived in a large apartment with servants. By the war’s end, he has witnessed total devastation across Poland.
And yet Roman survived, and the book not only describes the agonizing journey his family endured during the war, but also the aftermath, as the Soviets took over Poland and East Germany.
If you’ve read other memoirs about the Holocaust, there might be a part of you that feels like these books are too difficult to pick up and read, that they’re simply so horrifying to get through. There’s no question that “Hanging Hitler’s Long Johns” (a reference to young Roman’s impression that Nazi white flags looked uncannily like winter long johns) recounts a nearly unbearable amount of misery suffered not only by Roman and his family, but by all the other Jews in Poland, and by non-Jewish families as well.
But don’t let that discourage you from reading it. Roman is not a processional writer (he put together these memoirs with the assistance of Frank Feldinger, a journalist who has worked for publications like Fortune and Mother Jones), and the book benefits greatly by not feeling like it takes a “professional writer” approach. Continue reading