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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
The Devil's Bookkeepers is a historical fiction novel based on an actual Jewish chronicle of the declining conditions in the ghetto of Lodz, an industrial city in Nazi-controlled Poland, during World War II. Lodz was the second largest ghetto in German-occupied Europe, but very few of its residents survived the Holocaust. Among those survivors were the parents of author Mark Newhouse, who wrote this story as a tribute and as a plea that we allow such things to happen “Never again to anyone.”
The Devil refers to Chaim Rumkowski, the controversial administrator of the ghetto who cooperated with Nazi demands for work production and the removal of ghetto residents, including thousands of young children, who were sent to work or extermination camps. The Bookkeepers refers to a team of four men Rumkowski charged with recording data and happenings, including population changes, deaths, births, crimes, and the status of food and medical care. The story of the Lodz ghetto is narrated by Bernard Ostrowski, an engineer and one of the Bookkeepers, largely through his conversations with the other team members and his young wife.
In The Devil's Bookkeepers, Newhouse gives us a moving and an emotionally riveting account of life inside the ghetto from the perspective of its residents, and the impact on them physically, emotionally, and mentally. If this were a film, it would carry warnings about its graphic nature not being suitable for all viewers. But, it doesn’t hit you all at once. There is hope in the beginning that the war will end soon and the ghetto with it, but things only get worse as they go from terrible to intolerable, from difficult to unbelievable, and from rational to insane. You cannot read this story and remain unaffected. Highly recommended.