Memories of Evil: Recalling a World War II Childhood

Posted: March 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

Book Review by James Morcan: Memories of Evil: Recalling a World War II Childhood by Peter Kubicek


This was a harrowing and intense read. To vicariously experience the Holocaust through the eyes of a young (Jewish) boy was almost too intense in fact. For anyone to endure the level of depravity Holocaust victims were put through is of course a great tragedy, but somehow when it’s a child it is the worst tragedy of all for they do not have the same coping mechanisms or life experience.

Peter Kubicek is a Holocaust survivor who initially began writing this book when his twin daughters were around the same age as he was in WW2: he wanted his girls to know what he experienced. Eventually that short record evolved into Memories of Evil as Kubicek expanded on what he’d started so there’d be a true account for the world to know about.

What really brought home the level of dehumanization for me was the way Kubicek began his Holocaust memoir with his idyllic early childhood in Czechoslovakia (in a town that’s now in the Slovak republic). This boy’s parents and extended family were highly-educated, successful, hardworking, entrepreneurial people, and as a result the pre-teen Kubicek had almost everything a boy could want including doting parents and grandparents, excellent education and toys and quality foods. And then in an instant it was all gone. To learn how the town’s local residents relied on his family for many goods and services before the Nazi regime, to treating them like scum only a short-while later, really highlighted the contrast from pre-war Europe to the living hell that would ensue. Friends and employees the Kubiceks had trusted and even allowed to stay in their home suddenly revealed their true (anti-Semitic) natures and happily took all the family’s possessions and jobs due to Jews suddenly not being allowed to have either.

Because of the family’s connections they almost avoided experiencing the Holocaust and the US was on the verge of granting them refugee status at one point. But that all falls through at the last minute and within a few months young Peter is entirely on his own, yanked from his family including his beloved mother Ilka Kubicek. He ends up spending the rest of the war with adult males in various concentration camps, being moved from one to another, fighting hard to stay strong physically and mentally to prove to the Nazis he was able-bodied enough to work as a slave laborer just to avoid being put in a gas chamber.

The descriptions of horrors from starvation to lack of sanity to torture methods are vivid and Kubicek’s memory is still very sharp.

Another point of interest is the mentions of how major companies like Siemens and BMW and others had factories attached to certain concentration camps and knew exactly what was going on and benefited greatly off the slave laborers who avoided being gassed or otherwise killed.

I found young Peter to be a remarkable and resourceful boy who was forced to become a man before his years and see and experience things no human being, let alone a child, should ever have to.

One of the most powerful moments in the book is where Ilka, who herself has miraculously survived concentration camps, learns her son is still alive at the end of WW2 and demands (no, make that commands!) that a senior British official (who is already inundated) drop everything and drive her to Peter. This wonderful moment where mother and son are reunited provides a small ray of sunshine in one of the darkest events in human history.

You can find Memories of Evil on Amazon:

And here on Goodreads:

And Peter can be contacted via his Goodreads profile:

And here is Peter today (a survivor in every sense!):




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