Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassador Blog

Book review - Lily’s Promise: How I survived Auschwitz and found the strength to live

“So I promised I would tell the world what had happened. Not just to me, but to all the people who could not tell their stories.”

Lily Ebert BEM and Dov Forman

When Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert BEM published her book in 2021, it became an instant Sunday Times Bestseller, widely celebrated as an incredibly powerful account of her story. The book, which she co-wrote with her great-grandson, Dov Forman, is permeated by a sense of hope that Lily retains in both her educational work and daily life. Dov, equally committed to sharing Lily’s story, is leading the way as a role-model for young people across the world for Holocaust education and remembrance.

We can interpret ‘One Day’, the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2022, in a number of ways. For example, it can prompt us to think about one day in the future and how we can empower future generations to carry forward the lessons we must learn from the Holocaust and the testimony of survivors.

Lily’s book serves as a particularly powerful iteration of this theme. Despite the trauma and horrors of the experiences that Lily relays, there is always an underlying message of hope. This is perhaps one of the most striking things about some survivors’ testimonies. Stories of victims trading food for the Torah, or still finding time for regular prayer show us that many people demonstrated immense resilience and determination to keep going, in spite of all the darkness they faced. Some could still see ‘One Day’ in the future where things were better.

Lily and Dov with copies of their book. Picture from @DovForman on Twitter

Lily tracks the occasions on which simple moments of kindness from strangers enabled her to cultivate her sense of hope. An American soldier handed Lily a bank note, inked with the words ‘a start to a new life - good luck and happiness’. Dov describes this as ‘ten words of hope’. An act of such kindness serves as a reminder that life is simply a series of moments - that a single act might mean more to someone than we could ever know. Lily recalls this as a pivotal memory, a moment in which her faith in humanity was restored, after it had come close to disappearing completely so many times before.

We all have our own unique connections to the concept of ‘One Day’. For Lily, that single act of kindness on ‘One Day’ signified the start of a new life. For our generation, we can hope for a utopian future - a world in which we learn from atrocities, where hatred and racism no longer exist. Though this might seem like an overwhelming challenge, what we can do is advocate for better education on both the Holocaust and contemporary antisemitism. At the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, there is a plaque that reads, ‘For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews, from various countries of Europe’. We must harness the power of education and remembrance in the hope that, ‘One Day’, everyone will know this message.

‘Lily’s Promise’ is available to purchase now on the Pan MacMillan website.

By Evie Robinson and Emily Farley