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Reviewed by Tiffany Ferrell for Readers' Favorite
The Devil’s Bookkeepers by Mark Newhouse is set in the early 1940s when WWII is going strong. Hitler has his claws in most of Europe. Poland was one of the first countries that the Germans invaded. Bernhard Ostrowski, an engineer who was forced to migrate to the Łódź ghetto with his young wife, finds himself offered a position to work for the chairman (also known as the elder of the Jews). With three other men, they are given a special task to bookkeep for Rumkowski (the elder Jew in charge). As the war continues, and there are plans to decrease the ghetto population by some mysterious means, Benny and his co-workers write it all down. That's what is sent to the public to keep the Polish Jews at ease and for their own special system of keeping count. They write only half-truths about what is really happening to the people. They are forced to seriously tone down the events and incidents that shouldn’t have been. Benny finds himself working in a field that most of his community mistrust because they seem to be working alongside the Nazis to oppress the people in Łódź. What they fail to see is that Benny and his co-workers truly believe they are keeping their people safe by cooperating with the Germans and letting them have access to their factories. In reality, they are lying to the Jewish people, their own people, with these half-truths to keep them naive and ignorant of what we all know was to come.
I’ve read a lot of history books on WWII and on the different Polish ghettos (mainly Warsaw), but this is the first time I’ve read an account from the viewpoint of someone who was working for the Jewish council and police force that was tasked with keeping the people in line. It is kind of heartbreaking how much Benny trusts this chairman who has his own agenda and is trying to save himself from the inevitable. Knowing what happens in the ghettos and the eventual transportation to the death camps, as I read each chapter I saw this closer and closer to happening. I really liked Singer’s character mainly because he isn’t as blind as the others and is the constant reminder that something isn’t right. The Devil's Bookkeepers is well written and captures the terrible but real history of nearly 250,000 Jews, including the author's parents and relatives, who suffered in the Lodz ghetto during the Holocaust. I'm eager to read books two and three (when available). Mark H. Newhouse has definitely got me hooked with this first book and I look forward to seeing what happens to The Devil's Bookkeepers.