Children of the Flames by Lucette Lagnado PDF“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 found that they were referring back to the beginning to be sure they were reading about who they thought they were reading about. It’s as if the authors took a documentary film 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. And yet, 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 entirely accurate. A prominent Mengele twin who greatly assisted in the creation of the book disowns it for its inaccuracies and sub-par 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 now 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 of my father and his twin. Her answer was a weak and disappointing one, if candid, 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. If true, she could have found my father. If not, she printed an unconfirmed statement as fact. Either way, she made the deliberate choice not to interview a living twin. (Remember, the chance of finding both twins alive was small because of the experimentation methods used by Mengele.) 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 and worked.
As of the date of this post, Ms. Lagnado has yet to reply to my assertions on her journalistic decisions.
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