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Jewish Journal

A daughter tells her mother’s story of the Holocaust

by Ryan Torok

April 26, 2011 | 5:14 pm

A Los Angeles native and child of a Holocaust survivor, Tema Merback has written “In the Face of Evil,” a unique kind of Holocaust book — a novel written in the first person from her mother’s perspective. 

In relating the true story of what her mother faced during the war, Merback says that the narrative form she chose was missing from the canon of Holocaust books.

“Every survivor writes a memoir, but they are not pieces of literature,” she said. “That’s why I turned to the novel form, [so it] wouldn’t turn people off, would inspire them, hold them.”

On April 29, Merback and her mother, Dina Frydman Balbien, will appear at the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue. They will discuss, read from and sign copies of the book.

The book begins in the summer of 1939, when Balbien was 10 years old, and follows the girl through her life in the ghetto, to a labor camp and Auschwitz, where her family was killed.

Merback self-published the book in 2010 — it took her two years to write — and the descriptiveness of the prose reflects not only Merback’s talent, but Balbien’s inability to forget what she went through.

“Although I have tried at times to put the war behind me for both mine and my children’s sanity,” Balbien says in the book’s prologue, “like the tattoo that I bear, it is burned into me and has colored every moment of my life.”

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