Gertruda’s Oath reads like a novel; it was one of the few books that I stayed up all night to read because I could not put it down. Ram Oren has constructed the story from interviews, books, and letters of those involved and added probable dialog to bring the characters to life. It is not another Holocaust story or retelling of life inside the concentration camps, but rather a tale of avoiding the camps, surviving in the destitute atmosphere of war torn Europe, and the dangerous efforts of a woman to conceal the identity of a Jewish child in her care. The story is fast paced and gripping with several tales intertwined to show life in war time from many perspectives. Just when one obstacle is conquered and everything seems safe, like it’s going to be okay, another challenge surfaces. How much can one person endure and keep going?
The story centers around the struggle to endure the war between Michael, a young Jewish heir from Poland and his staunchly loyal Catholic nanny, Gertruda. …but this story is about so many others as well, and their vignettes are artfully woven together; their connections to each other eventually revealed to tell one remarkable story of hope, grief, love, disappointment, courage, heartbreak and ultimately, a promise kept.
Gertruda was not a pushy woman, but she held fast to what she believed was right and sacrificed much to ensure the safety of the boy, Michael whom she regarded as her son. Micahel Stolowitzky was a boy with an enormous heart and strong moral character, made mature beyond his years by grief and war. Karl Rink, an unlikely SS officer married to a Jewish woman who turned his own tragic naiveté about the Nazis into action to help Jews during the war. The legacy of these people and the others in this book will surely live on in the pages of Ram Oren’s outstanding book, Gertruda’s Oath.