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In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer
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In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  11,729 ratings  ·  875 reviews
"You must understand that I did not become a resistance fighter, a smuggler of Jews, a defier of the SS and the Nazis all at once. One's first steps are always small: I had begun by hiding food under a fence."

Through this intimate and compelling memoir, we are witness to the growth of a hero. Irene Gut was just a girl when the war began: seventeen, a Polish patriot, a stud
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 14th 2004 by Laurel Leaf (first published June 1st 1992)
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Dec 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: holocaust
"There was a bird flushed up from the wheat fields, disappearing in a blur of wings against the sun, and then a gunshot and it fell to the earth. But it was not a bird. It was not a bird, and it was not in a wheat field, but you can't understand what it was yet."

When I understood what the bird was, it was one of the most chilling things that I have ever read.

This is the story of a Catholic girl in Poland. In 1939 when Poland is invaded, she is 16 years old and training to be a nurse. Like Poland
Patrick Carroll
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I think this paragraph is the most eloquent description of why speaking about the Holocaust was/is so difficult for the survivors. "We did not speak of what we had seen. At the time, to speak of it seemed worse than sacrilege: We had witnessed a thing so terrible that it acquired a dreadful holiness. It was a miracle of evil. It was not possible to say with words what we had witnessed, and so we kept it safely guarded until the time we could bring it out, and show it to others, and say, 'Behold. ...more
I thought, ”Gosh, should I really read another holocaust memoir?” The answer is yes, and you should too, even if you have read a zillion already. You should read this memoir about what Irene Gut, a Catholic Polish girl of only seventeen, did to save others’ lives. Each person’s story is unique.

You know why you can go on reading one holocaust story after another? It is because they show you not only the worst in man but also the best. Horrible things happened to Irene and she suffered just as yo
Dec 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In My Hands in one of those books that you read and you can't get it out of your mind. This is the first novel I've read in quite some time that left me staying up all night until the darkness of sleep enveloped me.

Irene's story is both an amazing adventure and an heroic tale of a woman who saved the lives of others by risking her own. It almost seems unbelievable that the things that happened to Irene could actually happen to one person. The entire book is filled with adventure and suspense. I
Veronica Cepellos
Jun 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers interested in the Holocaust, in stories of triumph and perseverence and goodwill.
Recommended to Veronica by: Janina Opdyke-Smith
Kurt Vonnegut has defined a saint as a person "who behave[s:] decently in a strikingly indecent society." By his definition, Irene Gut Opdyke is a saint. I think there are more than a few people who would agree.

I had the pleasure of seeing an adaptation of this on Broadway, and got incredibly lucky: the author's daughter was in the house that night and hosted a Q&A session after the show. It was during this session that she revealed a few remarkable stories the book doesn't touch on...

As reg
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
This is the first Holocaust memoir I had read from a Polish point of view, and I was truly captivated. I have never read a story about one person having so much good fortune and bad luck all at the same time, it was almost like it was straight out of Hollywood. The things she was subjected to do, the things she risked and her uncompromising need to do what was right despite the consequences makes it nearly impossible to set this book down. I would lay awake at night, anticipating what was going ...more
Dec 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I did not ask myself, Should I do this? But, How will I do this? Every step of my childhood had brought me to this crossroad; I must take the right path, or I would no longer be myself. You must understand that I did not become a resistance fighter, a smuggler of Jews, a defier of the SS and the Nazis, all at once. One's first steps are always small: I had begun by hiding food under a fence. Now I was making plans to... (142-143)

In My Hands is nonfiction--a memoir--and it's a powerful one. Full
Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer - Nevisande : Irene Gut Opdyke - ISBN : 553494112 - ISBN13 : 9780553494112 - Dar 304 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 1992
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww11
First - this is a true story as told by Irene Gut Opdyke (a Catholic Polish girl) with Jennifer Armstrong as the Author. I bought this book at a popular used book store not knowing anything about the story or how it was rated. About halfway through the book I did a google check on it. It was what I expected - mostly a 4 and a 5 rated book.
Irene is a big time hero. BIG TIME. What she went through and did to save a good hand full of Jews from the Nazies was mind boggling.
To read her story reads
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: waargebeurd, war
I have dyslexia.
You never have read every testemony or story about world war II and its heros.
Irene Gut Opdyke is a Polish nurse who rescuit Jews and aided them. This is her story. Keep in mind that she only was 17 when the war started. Remarkable story.
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
They say to "let the wine breathe" before it can be served..The whole gamut surrounding this rests on the desire to experience the titillating flavor..Well, it's kinda backwards with book reviews..One has already enjoyed the contents..And jumping right into the review is very tempting..specially after reading a book that I really liked..But I often find myself writing satisfactory reviews only after I have let my thoughts "breathe"..

That said, this book joined my meager count of the holocaust bo
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I got to this memoir after my daughter recently saw and raved about the NY play ('Irena's Vow') based on the book.

'In My Hands' was written by a 23 year old Polish a nursing student after surviving six years of separation from her family, rapes by Russian soldiers and several years of servitude to German officers.

But it is not another Holocaust book. Or rather, it's a different kind of a Holocaust book. It's the story of an adolescent who decides that what's happening to the Jews is sickening. S
Abby Welker
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What an incredible story. It's hard to believe that this story is one of thousands - some written, some unwritten. I honestly didn't want to put this book down - it's well written and really helps you see how beautiful life was in Poland for most people before the war, and how one day was normal and the next day everything they knew had changed. I tried to put myself in their position over and over again and I still can't imagine how difficult life was for them. My heart was broken time and time ...more
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, by Irene Gut Opdyke

"In My Hands" starts with the author writing to the reader that if she tried to tell you what really happened during the war, told you everything at once, you wouldn't understand it. She includes an image that you won't comprehend until later in the book, the image of a bird falling, a bird that is not a bird. And as you come to understand what the bird really is, your heart will break, and you will know just what Irene means.

Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book, one because of my love of history and specifically WWII and the time of the Holocaust, but also because of the different perspective it gave. I have read a a lot of Jewish accounts of the Holocaust, but not as many from the rescuer standpoint. Many I'm sure have read The Hiding Place, a definite must read, but I also enjoyed this book about a young Polish woman who rescued/hid about 12 Jews. At the start of the book, which is also at the start of the war, Irene was only 17 ...more
Oct 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Hands down, this is one of the best books I've read regarding WWII. I read this in two days--I just couldn't put it down. It's about an amazingly brave and courageous Polish woman who is caught between the Russian and German fight for Poland. She has a number of run-ins with Russia's Red Army and survives multiple horrors by them. Then she is sent to a concentration camp but is 'discovered' by a soldier there who mistakenly thinks she is German (she is blond, blue eyed and speaks German that she ...more
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
"...but it was not a bird..." —Irene Opdyke

Though I hadn't planned to write a review for this book, it seems fitting to make special mention of it in light of current events. A few days ago White Nationalists celebrated the election of Donald Trump with cheers of "Hail Trump!" accompanied by Nazi salutes in Washington, D.C.

Irene is recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by the state of Israel for saving the lives of 12 Jews during the Holocaust. This
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I was mainly the storey that ripped me through this book, the writing was good, some of her words were so perfect... they said mountains with out saying much or sent a clear perfect message that sat with me. Though some of it felt ... clumsy? Not sure the word I'm looking for there. There were some things I actually really liked that I wouldn't normally in a book, like the way she did not indulge in some of the big events or trauma and stuck with some details that seemed less important... it fel ...more
"There was a bird flushed up from the wheat fields, disappearing in a blur if wings against the sun, and then a gunshot and it fell to the earth"

I'm not sure if enjoyed is the correct word to describe this book, but I'm very glad I read it. It describes how a 17 year old Polish girl, Irene Gut, became a Holocaust rescuer and how she helped save several Jewish families by hiding them and sneaking them food in the woods, and how she hid another group in a German major's house.
Sep 14, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a nonfiction memoir of a teenage girl in Poland, during the WWII. She was a survivor and she was also a rescuer. Separated from her family, she got involved and she took chances....not for herself, but to make a difference in the lives of others. I appreciated her message and her story. She had courage.

I did deduct a star because of the writing. Some of this was choppy and a little clunky. But then again, some of this was beautifully written. I wanted more of that and I also had question
This was an amazing book. The bravery, selflessness, and courage of Irene Gutowna is awe-inspiring. She was just a teen when she started fighting for what's right and helping Jews, literally right under the nose of a German major. She sacrificed so much to help the innocent victims and she became a victim herself. It was a fascinating and heartbreaking read (listen!) and I devoured it. Every book about Nazi victims is tragic and it's still shocking what Hitler did even this many years later. It ...more
Apr 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Around two weeks ago, I learned from my friend that she had two tickets to go see a new broadway play called "Irena's Vow." I heard that this show was about the Holocaust and had initial thoughts that the play would just be another depressing story about the Holocaust, but I was completely wrong. After the lights went down and came up at the end for the curtain call, I was amazed by the story and portrayal of the polish catholic girl, Irena Gut Opdyke. In the back of the theater, Irena's real da ...more
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Irene was seventeen when World War II started in 1939. The story starts when Irene, the oldest of five sisters, is captured by a German “łapanka." Irene was taken to an area closer to the German-Soviet front. She was forced to work in a munitions factory and soon enough she was moved into a German officer's house to work as his maid. Irene dared to challenge the evil of the Germans, so she began hiding Jewish workers, one at a time, into unimaginable places in the officer's house. She hid them i ...more
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kristinn by: Arven Pinuela, Grace Marquez
Shelves: holocaust, 2014
As an enthusiast of Jew related stories and WW2, it always breaks my heart to read something like what Irene had experienced.

It has been decades since the Holocaust happened, but the memories of the brutality and extermination of Jews are refreshed to the new generation through the accounts of Irene.

I cannot compare the experience of Irene to what Ellie Wesel experienced in the hands of the German officers. I can say he suffered much fear, anger, pain and anguish than Irene. Nevertheless, Ellie
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is just amazing. Irene Opdyke is a hero. And just a small hero at that, but the things she did were filled with bravery, guts, ingenuity and pure unconditional love. This exciting memoir has such an impact on the horrors executed during WWII. Irene was a non-Jew helping to save the lives of a select group of Jews. What was so impacting for me was the horror after horror she witnessed as a teenager, yet it did not daunt her in any way to help poor Jewish people to safety. Although at on ...more
Bonnie Palmer
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I don't think I could add any more to what has been already said about this book in previous reviews. I was not ready for how compellingly beautiful the telling of the story would be. The first lines of the story draw you in like a magnet: "There was a bird flushed up from the wheat fields, disappearing in a blur of wings against the sun, and then there was a gunshot and it fell to the earth. But it was not a bird. It was not a bird, and it was not in the wheat field, but you can't understand w ...more
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found this book through the "Stuff you missed in history" podcast. Its really an astonishing read, as evidenced by the fact that I swallowed it all while hanging around the house on New Year's Day. Its the story of the "female Oscar Schindler," and it deserves every bit of that title.
Mar 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book - the reader is quite good as well. An amazing story of a young girl who did whatever she could to save people from execution. The accounts of the bombings she survived left me breathless. Mesmerizing story of a courageous girl.
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww2, europe, audiobook, america
Well, that made me cry. It’s an odd thing, to try and review a Holocaust memoir. This one started off a bit slowly - Irene’s childhood is written more as a reflection of who she would become rather than who she was, it felt to me. Her heroism once the war started was incredible and the risks she took amazing. It’s an important story and one I think everyone should hear.
Sue Holmes
An inspirational memoir of Irene Gut Opdyke's heroic experiences in her country (Poland) during WWII when it was occupied in turn by Germany and The Soviet Union. Brought to life by ghostwriter Jennifer Armstrong and narrated by Hope Davis.
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NOMS In My Hands 17: Four Roles 28 30 Apr 12, 2017 08:32AM  
NOMS In My Hands 17: Conflict 30 33 Mar 23, 2017 11:02AM  
In My Hands NOMS: Dehumanization 21 24 Mar 10, 2015 05:25PM  
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“In my fantasies, I was always caught up in heroic struggles, and I saw myself saving lives, sacrificing myself for others. I had far loftier ambitions than mere romance.” 17 likes
“Every day now, I found a chance to slip outside and leave food under the fence. I knew it was a drop in the ocean, but I could not do nothing.” 13 likes
More quotes…