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Reviewed by Joshua Olokodana for Readers' Favorite
In a place where most people, even his friend Herman, preferred the cold comfort of death to life, David Korda’s survival instincts refused to succumb. When Leibig offered David’s services to Frau Hausler in G. Gruen’s The Uniform, David suddenly found himself on a two-hour vacation. But when he saw the uniformed corpse of a Gestapo officer, visions of a life beyond the reach of the Reich flashed before him, and an impossible feat was set in motion. However, it was not to be, as Sturmbannführer Leibig caught up to him despite his disguise, and by the time he knew it, he was on the way to Ebensee prison camp. What a crime it was to be a Jew! Nevertheless, a mistimed honk, an overconfident Leibig, and a few injections of morphine were all it took to ensure that David was the one dropping off a feeble-minded “Jew” at Ebensee. But David’s "Old Testament" revenge barely lasted long enough to get him through the gates of Ebensee before the Germans discovered his trick. He’s lucky enough to be traveling the rugged terrain to Switzerland atop an Olympian horse, but can David outrun the Wehrmacht?
The Uniform by G. Gruen is the heart-rending narration of David Korda’s experience of what it meant to be a Jew during the Third Reich. It depicts the brutality meted out to Jews and the complicity of people who took advantage of it to elevate their social status. The plot was poignant and loaded with unabashedly grim scenes. I never thought a story could truly convey horror and humor simultaneously, but Mr. Gruen’s expert portrayal of David as a person who wore his sense of humor like a badge did the trick. His writing was flawless! Yet, I couldn’t keep my heart from pounding as I saw David’s chances improve and diminish throughout the book. It was a breathtaking rollercoaster, and knowing that it was inspired by actual events made it even more unnerving. Although the novel was narrated in the third person, I'm pleased it didn’t overlook the tendency of the Nazi officers to do anything for survival or promotion. I'm convinced that The Uniform’s frankness and polished writing, with its colorful touches of humor, ensure its status as one of the best Holocaust-themed books.