Updated: Oct 4
Eli Rosen was living a happy life in Lublin, Poland with his wife and son. In 1939, when the Nazis invade Poland, his world starts to fall apart. His family-owned brickyard business was overtaken by Max Poleski, an unscrupulous opportunist who had been a salesman for the company. Eli and his family are given a false sense of security as Max, who has endeared himself with the SS commanders, vows to help protect the Rosens from the Nazis.
In 1946, we find Eli and his son in the Föhrenwald Displaced Persons Camp having survived the Buchenwald concentration camp. He doesn’t know if his wife is still alive. The survivors are trying to recover and figure out where they will settle and rebuild their lives. Eli learns that Max is now selling illegal visas to the United States, which were highly coveted given the restrictive immigration quotas.
In the book’s third timeline, it is 1965 and Eli has just moved to Chicago in the Albany Park neighborhood where many European immigrants had settled. He tells his landlady that he works for the government yet she suspects he’s a spy.
Eli’s Promise brings an interesting perspective to the horrors of WWII. While it is one man’s story of survival, it is also the story of the despicable profiteering that took place during and after the war. And in the 1960s, during the Vietnam war, profiteering continued. Author Ronald H. Balson did an excellent job describing the early days of Nazi occupation when many Jews didn’t initially grasp the severity of what the Nazis were planning, feeling that life would soon go back to normal. But of course it never did. In the author’s Acknowledgments, Balson reminds us that all but two hundred of Lublin’s forty thousand Jews were murdered.
Eli’s Promise is well worth reading, as are all Balson’s books.
Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and the author for the opportunity to read this compelling story in advance of its publication.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: September 22, 2020.
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