The For­bid­den Daugh­ter: The True Sto­ry of a Holo­caust Survivor

  • Review
By – April 22, 2024

One of the cru­elest parts of Nazi Germany’s attempt­ed geno­cide of Euro­pean Jews was its spe­cial focus on elim­i­nat­ing all Jew­ish chil­dren. Even before mass trans­ports to death camps like Auschwitz-Birke­nau began in earnest, mea­sures were put in place that for­bade Jew­ish women to give birth to Jew­ish babies.

This was the sit­u­a­tion in the Kovno ghet­to in 1943, when Dr. Jon­ah Fried­man and his wife, Tzi­la, dis­cov­ered that after years of long­ing, Tzi­la was preg­nant with their first child. The cou­ple, who did not sur­vive the war, took great mea­sures to hide Tzila’s preg­nan­cy and have the baby, a daugh­ter named Eli­da. When it became clear to the par­ents that there was no escape for them, they made the heart-wrench­ing deci­sion to smug­gle three-month-old Eli­da through the ghet­to fence to a stranger. 

For Eli­da, this was only the beginning.

Part of what makes The For­bid­den Daugh­ter so inter­est­ing is that, though it begins with the Holo­caust, most of the book depicts the life­long strug­gles that sur­vivors faced. By the time Sovi­et troops lib­er­at­ed Lithua­nia in the sum­mer of 1944, the Nazis had mur­dered rough­ly nine­ty per­cent of Lithuan­ian Jews. Sta­tis­ti­cal­ly, those who sur­vived would be con­sid­ered lucky,” but Jakob’s book demon­strates that luck does not always equate to happiness.

The For­bid­den Daugh­ter fol­lows Eli­da through post­war ups and downs, includ­ing her being sold by the lov­ing fam­i­ly that shel­tered her dur­ing the war; her adop­tion by fel­low sur­vivors, whose own trau­ma some­times led to abu­sive behav­ior; the com­pli­cat­ed dynam­ic of the extend­ed fam­i­ly who found her as an ado­les­cent; the life­long iden­ti­ty cri­sis that result­ed from all of this tur­moil; and her trag­ic death in a ter­ror­ist attack on TWA Flight 840, which was bombed over Athens, Greece. As the author poignant­ly puts it, Eli­da was born in fire and died by fire.”

These low moments are punc­tu­at­ed by moments of love, suc­cess, and beau­ty. Jakob does an excel­lent job of depict­ing the emo­tion­al, men­tal, and phys­i­cal ram­i­fi­ca­tions that sur­vivors like Eli­da dealt with their entire lives — an area of Holo­caust stud­ies that has been receiv­ing more atten­tion as of late. The For­bid­den Daugh­ter is a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to Holo­caust lit­er­a­ture that shows what hap­pens to the inner self amid tragedy. 

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