Review: CHILDREN OF THE FLAMES by Lucette Matalon Lagnado and Sheila Cohn Dekel

Among the books I read for the WWII reading challenge was Children of the Flames:  Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz by Lucette Matalon Lagnado and Sheila Cohn Dekel.  Here’s an excerpt from the review I posted on Diary of an Eccentric:

Children of the Flames isn’t for the faint of heart, but I highly recommend it if you’re interested in a different kind of Holocaust story and are curious about the hunt for Nazi war criminals. Be prepared to cry and get angry at the injustice of it all. While I can’t say I “enjoyed” the book given its subject matter, Children of the Flames was powerful, informative, and eye-opening.

Read my full review here.

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  1. I do not meaning to slam this work, but it’s not a very good one. “Children of the Flames” does not set out to be a bad book. It tries to follow the experiences of several Mengele twins chronologically from before the War throughout the lives of the interviewees. The style of chronicling the lives of many people in this way might work for a newspaper series that is broken into stages over many days, but for a book, it doesn’t quite work. Many of the people I spoke to who read the book find that they are referring back to the beginning of it to be sure they are reading about who they think they are reading about. It’s as if the authors took a documentary style of storytelling and put it in print. For a subject with players from so many different places, you would think it would still work. It doesn’t.

    My own uncle is featured prominently in the book – Zvi the Sailor. The significant detail you need to know before you put down good money for this work is that it is not accurate. A prominent Mengele twin who greatly assisted in the creation of the book disowns it for its inaccuracies and poor writing. My father, Zvi’s twin, was never interviewed for his account. In fact, the book contributed to a rift between the twins that did not resolve for many years.

    The irony is that one of the authors is a writer for the Wall Street Journal and Sami Rohr recipient. With credentials like hers, you would expect better in this book. Lucette Lagnado very kindly replied to me within 24 hours (during a book tour on New Year’s Eve, no less) when I asked her why she never interviewed my father. I told her of how the book added to the estrangement. Her answer was a weak and disappointing one, if honest and open, for an investigative journalist: She couldn’t find him. If you read the book, Zvi the Sailor claims he sent his twin brother, my father, money from Israel to America. So she could have found my father and made the deliberate choice not to. She did not find the juxtaposition of twin viewpoints as a compelling reason to seek out a living twin in the U.S. where she lived.

  2. Neal,

    Thank you very much for informing us of this. Are any of the twins who deem the book inaccurate planning to tell their stories themselves? I’d definitely be interested in hearing their take on the events.


  3. I would prefer not to speak for someone else, but I can strongly suggest you contact Eva Mozes Kor of C.A.N.D.L.E.S. for her opinion on this work. She was a major contributor to the co-authors, and she is open about her opinions on this book if you ask her.

    She is also a true expert on the subject. She and her sister were Mengele twins around the same time my father and his brother were in Birkenau. Eva has not only taken the experience and healed from it, but she has educated others in written works and film. She understands this subject in a professorial way, and she has campaigned for Holocaust experimental subjects to be regarded specially.

    If you want a different take on the book from another twin, Eva leaps to mind. If you find my uncle, Tzvi Klein in Ramat Sapir, (Zvi the Sailor) you can ask him what he thought of the way the book created a rift between him and his brother.

  4. Thanks, Neal. I’ll look into that. I appreciate your comments on a very important subject.


  5. So sad 😦 ,please send my greatest respects and warmest wishes to your father,

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