Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years

ISBN: 0963525778
ISBN 13: 9780963525772
By: Misha Defonseca

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About this book

The compelling story of a young Jewish girl who walks thousands of miles to escape the Holocaust and find her parents-- An inspiring true tale of courage and survivalIn 1940, when Misha was seven years old, her mother and father were taken by the Nazis, and she was hidden in a "safe" home they had secretly arranged for her. Realizing the terrible danger she was in, her kindly foster Grandfather taught her survival skills, such as "Don't trust people; they can hurt you", and "You can do anything you make up your mind to do". When Misha overheard her stepmother planning to turn her over to the Germans, the child took off on foot to search for her parents. Hiding in the forests to avoid human contact, she survived by stealing from farm kitchens along the way and pilfering crops in the fields. Often she was near starvation and many times nearly froze to death. In the course of her travels she was befriended by wolves, and among them she experienced the happiest moments of her troubled childhood. "I never remember being hungry in the company of wolves", she writes.Throughout her trials Misha continued to believe she would find her parents, and so she kept walking, day after day, year after year, across war-ravaged Europe, witnessing firsthand the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust. Before the war ended she would be captured by partisans, imprisoned in the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, forced to kill a Nazi soldier in self-defense and swept up by her first love. Although she never found her parents, she was reunited with her foster Grandfather when she returned home five years after her journey began.This astonishing story, full of passion, terror, and triumph, will become a classicin the way that The Diary of Anne Frank is, with the difference that in this tale the heroine survives.

Reader's Thoughts


“At one lecture, a woman said to me, ‘You’re not a holocaust survivor. You didn’t live in the camps.’ Hers was just one voice among others. It shouldn’t have upset me as it did, but I was annoyed with myself for telling the world a story that wasn’t universally accepted, just because it wasn’t like everyone else’s. I was different, as always… ” Surviving with wolves is indeed unique, a story different from any other one you might have read. It takes place during the war and the reader sees through Jewish eyes. Until then, you will tell me that there is nothing unusual about it, and you are right. What makes this book so extraordinary how its story actually unfolds and how the different events that occur are told.Misha lives in Brussels with her parents and even though they are rather poor, she is happy. But she is Jewish and her life changes forever when her parents are taken away by Nazis. Misha is saved and placed in a Belgian family who will take care of her. As she is only seven, she does not fully understand what is happening. She knows that she must not say that she is Jewish; she knows that the Nazis are dangerous; she knows that her parents are in the East. Nobody explained anything else to her. So one day, she sets off towards the East to find them and starts an unimaginable journey through Europe in war.The story of the journey itself is wonderful. We follow the little girl who knows nothing about war in her adventure. She is innocent but clever and very brave. From the very beginning, we see how she can survive in hostile environment, with people fighting around her and the whole world collapsing. Because of this traumatic period, nobody tries to stop her; it is not usual to see poor and filthy children on their own, and Misha does not trust people. She steals food from the farms or eats from carcasses rather than begging or asking for help. She sleeps in the forest rather that hideing in deserted buildings. This is how, on her long way trough Belgium, Germany, Poland, Russia and the Ukraine, she meets wolves with whom she develops a wonderful relationship.This relationship is incredible at first, but yet as the story goes on we understand it better. The descriptions of the majestic animals are poignant and we clearly see why the little girl trusts them rather than humans: they don’t have guns, they are not deliberately cruel to one another, they have clear rules and they can be trusted… Unlike human beings or at least unlike the human beings Misha has met.The scenes with nature are cleverly mixed with war scenes. As Misha does not trust humans, she does not seek social contact but inevitably she will see some of the horrors of the war. An interesting aspect is that, by travelling, we see how different people react to the war. The reader is given an insight into Polish guerrillas’ fights, Jews’ persecution, German soldiers’ methods, Russian civilians’ hope and prisoner camps…These are described with accurate details of what the little girl felt when she actually lived the scene and mixed with explanations given by Misha years later, when she writes about her adventure. Telling this story with two perspectives was a sensible choice: we understand the little girl experience, her innocence and how traumatic everything was for someone who did not understand at all the gravity of what was happening; at the same time, we have more factual explanation to help us understand how Misha’s personal story is linked to the rest of the events.One of the main controversies that arose with the publication of this book regarded the truth of the story. Even if Misha first presented it as real, it turned out that she had actually made it up: she was not Jewish and she did not travel all the way through Europe, living with wolves, to find her parents. This revelation should however not lessen the beauty of the story. Misha has survived the war and her need to tell a story that differs from the one she actually lived shows how she tries to heal from this traumatic experience.Surviving with wolves is therefore a book that is worth reading, especially for people who like animals and are interested in war stories. However, anybody can find it interesting, as it is extremely varied and well written..

Myriam St-Denis Lisée

Et dire que tout cela n'était que mensonge.. avoir sû!


Even if this was fiction it was not a good read but selling this as non fiction, as the true story of a Jewish kid in the holocaust? This woman is not a Jew and she spent the war in the comfort of her relatives home.This book should be known for what it is - junk and Defonesca is not only a bad writer but also a demented liar.I've place a little newspaper article about Defonesca inside the copies that we have at the library so that everyone will know what this loon is all about and I suggest that every library will do the same.I wish that I could give this book zero stars for it is not even worth the effort of picking it up.


This book is about a WWII orphan girl who ran away from Belgium when she was very young (5 or 6?) and walked across Europe almost all the way to Russia. She was accompanied by wolves much of the time and avoided society until she was nearly a teenager. She spent time in a concentration camp and saw trains carrying Jews. Although this book was in the nonfiction section and portrayed as a "true story", I took it with a grain of salt. Some things just didn't add up. For example, it was too easy for her to come and go from a concentration camp as she pleased. (Why would she go in there twice anyway?) Sure enough, in Feb 2008 the author confessed that her "biography" was a hoax. The story is interesting though, so I enjoyed it anyway.


It's important to remember that the author's parents really were taken away by Nazis when she was a small child and she never saw them again. (They were members of the Belgian Resistance - Catholic, not Jewish - and were probably killed in camps before the end of the war.) Thus her psychological problems are understandable, and she admits to having had therapy. For these reasons I'm not inclined to label the book a 'hoax' as that implies a conscious effort to make money out of lying. The truth is probably more complicated than that. That said, the book really is a hateful piece of shit. It claims Jewish identity as a badge of suffering without demonstrating any religious or cultural understanding. It splits the world into good guys and bad guys, the latter including barely differentiated Nazis, grown-ups, Catholics, etc etc, the former being only beautiful women and animals. Humans are there simply to be stolen from and argued with, regardless of their intentions towards her. It presents ludicrously far-fetched scenes such as a 7-year-old child overcoming and killing an adult soldier, knowing that the public's idea of the Holocaust as an extreme event full of unimaginable horrors will lead them to bypass normal scepticism and discrimination.I'm inclined to blame the others associated with the book - the publisher Jane Daniel and the co/ghost-writer Vera Lee - for this, rather than the author who is clearly unwell. While the author's endless self-pity and misanthropy is unpleasant, it needn't have found expression in a 'Holocaust memoir' bound to give offence to real victims.


I enjoyed this book but was disappointed it was not a true story.


Fascinating book, wonderful story, but since it's all made up I only give it 1 star.


Say you meet me at a party and I tell you that when I was 7 years old, I killed a full-grown military officer, then ran off and was nurtured by a pack of wolves. Would you believe me or begin edging away quietly, keeping the snack table between us at all times?Or say I'm a healthy-looking, articulate young white woman, and I tell you I used to work for the Bloods in L.A. -- a full-time gun-strapped gangbanger. Would you believe me or laugh in my un-bruised, orthodontured face?If you said you would believe these stories, then please stand by -- the process of natural selection will be along for you in a moment. More likely you scoffed at the idea you'd fall for such obvious crap.read more ...http://thetyee.ca/Books/2008/03/10/Li...


I read this in Dutch a long time ago and I really loved it! It's unbelievable what this girl went through....

Janne Paananen

Susilapsi kertoo seitsenvuotiaasta Mishasta, joka toisen maailmansodan juutalaisvainoissa menetti perheensä ja lähti etsimään heitä idästä. Matka taittui jalan. Neljän vuoden aikana tyttö käveli Belgiasta Neuvostoliittoon ja takaisinkin eläen lähinnä varastamalla ruokaa ja kun varastettavaa ei ollut, syömällä raatoja, puun kuorta ja matoja. Koko matkan aikana Misha ei juuri ollut tekemisissä ihmisten kanssa. Hän jopa eli muutamissa susiperheissä. Eläinsuhteista muodostuikin hänelle ihmissuhteita luotettavampia.Tarina on hurja ja mielikuvituksen rajoilla kulkeva selviytymistarina. Se ei kuitenkaan tunnu "rehelliseltä". Hyvä kirjoittaja saa fiktionkin myytyä lukijalle ja tämän uskomaan siihen. Jostain syystä Mishan reissua ei pysty ostamaan täysin varauksitta. Kieli on hieman kankeaa, johtuuko kirjoittajasta vai suomennoksesta, en tiedä. Osaltaan kaikkea tätä tietenkin selittää se, että kirja on kirjoitettu (ainakin julkaistu) vasta 2004 (alkuperäinen itse asiassa 1997) eli itse tapahtumista on ehtinyt vierähtää puoli vuosisataa. Ja Mishan kokemukset ovat hänen 7-10 ikävuosiltaan, joten aikuisena niiden muisteleminen voi olla haastavaa.


A few moments ago, after I finished the book, I found out it was made up. I really don't know what to say. I know it impressed me and I was inspired by the little girl's courage. Page by page, I was sure in my heart that this story is true. So I guess that is the reason why I am so disappointed now. Still, it was a very good book, I found it touching and I think that in my mind, I will continue to believe it is true!


Okay, after Defonseca was recently outed as a fraud, I had to read this for the curiosity factor, and now I must question the I.Q. of anyone who read this "memoir" at the time of its publication and thought it was authentic. Yeah, a seven-year-old sets off on a four-year trek across war-torn Europe, and is intermittently nurtured by wolves. She just happens to slip into the Warsaw ghetto hours before it was liquidated; she stabs a Nazi to death; she digs a hole for herself in a mass grave and hides amidst the bodies... I'll stop there. Never mind that it's clearly untrue -- it's not even halfway-decent fiction. An insult to intelligence.

Zsuzsa Zsuzsika

I really liked the story until I got -cheated- by author. I thought this is a real story.I don't like when someone is lying to me. If it a fiction please tell...


I thought this was a dubious and poorly written story of an orphaned Jewish girl's vain attempt to walk east from Belgium to find her parents who had been taken by the Nazis.It seemed to read as if a twelve year old had written it. I persevered becaused I'd promised a neighbor (who loved it ... !?!?!!).Reading some of the reviews on here led to a bit of research; I've learned the story is largely made up by Ms. Defonseca as her way of "surviving" the war. I have no problem with fiction written in the first person (remember "A Million Little Pieces"???) ---- but this was, in my opinion, just bad writing.


История трогательная, очень ярко написанная, но совершенно неправдоподобная. Героиня выживала, несмотря на холод, голод, войну и отсутствие необходимых для этого вещей.

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