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Reviewed by Edith Wairimu for Readers' Favorite
Sylvie Heyman’s remarkable memoir, Beyond the Holocaust: An Immigrant's Search for Identity, details her family’s journey of leaving Belgium with the hope of living in the US during the Second World War. Born in 1938, Heyman was only a toddler when her immediate and extended families decided to flee from Belgium. In May 1940, Heyman and her family were awakened by frightening tremors, the Nazis had invaded Belgium. The six families left the country for France, which had not yet been invaded. In June 1940, Paris was invaded by the Nazis which led the family to change their plans and head for Arcachon, located in the southwest of France. Along the way, the families were separated. Heyman and her parents’ journey would include years of uncertainty living in South America as they hoped to flee the Holocaust and anti-Semitic aggression.
Beyond the Holocaust: An Immigrant's Search for Identity is a crucial work that reflects upon the challenges that immigrants face in settling into a new culture while trying to overcome accumulated trauma. I found the memoir especially relevant to today’s world as the number of immigrants across the world continues to grow. Through Heyman’s and her parents’ personal experiences, the memoir shows how different people of different ages, personalities, and backgrounds assimilate differently. The search for identity becomes paramount when one is forced to shed their former identity so as to fit in. As anti-Semitic attacks continue to occur in today’s world, works such as Beyond the Holocaust by Sylvie Heyman play an important role in revealing the horrific and extensive impacts of similar atrocities.